“Your life always seems so perfect!”

“Your life always seems so perfect!”

Wes and I were able to spend some time in Asheville for Thanksgiving, and while shopping on Black Friday, I ran into a few friends I had not seen in a really long time. While catching up with one particular friend, she said, “I have loved keeping up with you on Facebook. Your life always seems so perfect!” Graciously, I smiled and gave her my thanks, but her words have not left my thoughts.

A perfect life?! Was she crazy? My life is great, don’t get me wrong. But, tonight especially, on the eve of my two-year wedding anniversary, I wanted to share some of the NOT perfect moments we have experienced.

Planning our wedding was one of the most stressful times of my entire life. I was finishing school (full-time), earning very little money at work (part-time), and had limited time to put anything together. Wes took on the majority of the planning, and paying, causing mental and emotional (and financial) stress for both of us.

In the first few months of our marriage, Wes struggled severely with anxiety, and I had no idea how to help him. While his brain was inexplicably producing all the worst-case scenarios, I was blankly staring while he was silently begging for help. I was absent and helpless, leaving Wes to basically fend for himself during the healing process.

We have moved three times since we’ve been married. THREE TIMES in two years! I don’t know about y’all, but I think moving is the absolute worst.

I constantly question whether I’m doing an okay job as a stepmom. My husband and the girls’ mother have done such a flawless job raising two amazing young ladies, and every single day, I worry I will be the one to monumentally screw something up.

And…speaking of parenthood…

In this past month, which has been one of the hardest of our marriage, we found out that our pregnancy, which had not yet been announced, was going to end in a miscarriage. For two weeks, I have been examined, poked and prodded, and all Wes could do was stand beside me with my hands wrapped in his, wiping away the tears.

So, here’s the thing about my life…

It’s not perfect.

It’s hard. It’s unbearable. At times, it seems impossible to survive.

But that’s in fact what we do. We survive.

All of that stress from wedding planning resulted in an amazing, beautiful, indescribable celebration of the love Wes and I have for each other.

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You may now kiss your bride.

Wes and I found a core group of people who helped us walk through the anxiety, and now both of us can see warning signs of anxiety approaching, stopping the issues before they even start.

Our third (and hopefully final) move has landed us in a gorgeous house, surrounded by acres of scenic farmland and mountains. We have enough bedrooms to have our friends and family spend the night, as well as a dining room large enough to host all our college kids for holiday meals.

I have spent so much time thinking I’m not making an impact on the lives of Savanna and Larson, and then Savanna tells me she’s working really hard in her science class so she can go to UNC-Wilmington and be a marine biologist (a suggestion I made to her two years ago). Or Larson says she can’t wait to tell her friends she got to eat ice cream and spend the day with Miss Blair all by herself.

On the night the doctors told us we would lose our baby, Wes and I had to drive Savanna down the mountain for a softball workout. While the two of them were practicing hitting, I stayed in the car crying and praying. To be honest, I was mad at God. I kept asking why this was happening and what I had done to deserve this pain. Through the tears and the grief and the anger, a beautiful revelation played out in my mind. God wasn’t mad at me. He didn’t have plans of payback for me. What was God was doing, right there in the car with me, was wrapping His arms around me, probably thrilled I was speaking directly to Him. What I felt…and learned…in that moment was that God prefers our sad/angry words over our happy/content silence. And that wisdom has carried me through these last few agonizing weeks.

In the Spring of 2013, I bought a glass vase and a pack of construction paper. After cutting that pack of paper into small strips, I instructed Wes to begin writing things he loved about me and us on those pieces of paper, fold them up, and put them in the vase. Tonight, we poured out that vase, distributed the papers, and read them out loud to each other. Some were very simple (“I love that you will wake up early on a Saturday to mow our lawn”), while others were significantly more emotional (“I am so excited to propose to you in a few days!”). It was one of the sweetest and most romantic hours we’ve ever spent together, and one I hope to never forget. Now as I sit here, remembering and writing about our life together, my friend’s words continue to replay over and over in my mind.

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Reasons I love you…

Yes, life can be hard and unbearable. And seemingly impossible to survive.

Tonight, however, sitting with my husband in our beautifully decorated living room of a house we love, sharing memories of our two-plus years together, planning Christmas week with Savanna and Larson reflecting on how far we’ve come mentally and emotionally, toasting with our glasses of wine, a new set of words is rolling around in my mind:

“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I’ve ended up where I needed to be.”

Turns out that where I have ended up, sharing this life with the most incredible husband, navigating the obstacles with which we’ve been faced, is actually better than perfect.

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Cheers to two years!

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I may have “come from nothing”…but I ended up with everything

In what was assumed to be an attack on our childhood and our upbringing, a very hurtful comment was said by a “friend” earlier today.

After the initial pain and soul searching, here are some truths I held onto:

  • My parents went to great lengths to show us their love and devotion to our family. With each passing year, I learn of sacrifices they had to make in order for us to have clothes, school supplies, uniforms, basketball shoes, softball gloves, cars, and even our house.
  • Because of those sacrifices, we reaped the benefits of:
    • Having something to wear each and every single day
    • The supplies needed in order to learn and flourish in school
    • All of the athletic gear required for us to play year-round sports. This included basketball shorts and shoes, softball pants, cleats, gloves and bats, and money needed for countless nights at hotels.
    • A car that consistently ran and got us to every day of school, practice and work.
    • A safe house in a safe neighborhood with heat, air conditioning, plenty of food, running water, and all the entertainment we’d need.

We were not rich, by any means. My mom told me a couple years ago that there were times she and Dad didn’t know how they were going to pay our (inexpensive!) mortgage for the upcoming month. Somehow, they made it all work. They provided more than what we three kids deserved, and never let anyone know there were struggles.

Our house was never the nicest among the houses of our friends and neighbors. But today, having been gone for many years, I can still walk into our front door and drown in memories of love and laughter.

The cars we drove were hand me downs from our parents (who received them as hand me downs from previous owners), unlike many of my classmates’ cars that were driven straight off a new car lot. But our cars were paid for in cash, saving us from having to help with monthly payments. Gas was cheap, and our part time jobs eased the burden of my parents having to pay for everything. And, no matter what our cars looked like, or how old they were, they got us everywhere we needed to be.

My dad “forced” us to play sports, sometimes against our will. I look back now on undefeated seasons and all star tournaments and national championships, and am filled with gratitude towards my parents who knew how much value those sports would bring to our lives.

We never got to travel the world; instead, we had to “settle” for family vacations. Looking back, if I had my choice now, I’d rather spend summers with my Nana and Grampy again than jet set across the ocean. My parents gave us opportunities to create family memories that are still cherished (and missed!) to this day.

When I think back to our childhood, the word “humble” comes to mind. My pastor defines humility as not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less. Humble surroundings are what we grew up in; humble parents made us who we are now. I love the life I came from, which has led to the life I lead today.

We had great family, friends and neighbors. We went to a safe school. We got to go to church. We played more sports and won more games in 18 years than some people play and win in a lifetime. We had a warm house to come home to everyday. And, most importantly, we were never without the unfailing, consistent, sacrificial love of our parents.

So, to end, while what this person said about growing up with nothing might be true in his or her eyes, if I could choose a life to live all over again, I’d choose the “nothing” I grew up every single time.

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Recognize your gift!

Three weeks ago, I went with a group of women from my church to a women’s conference in Atlanta. Honest confession here: In my life, I’ve more often than not done the internal eye-rolling after I’ve asked a friend or coworker how a trip or a service or a meeting went, and was given the reply, “It changed my life.” That’s bad. I’m bad, I know. I’ve just always been skeptical that a moment of hearing someone preach or teach can become life-altering.

Today, I publicly scold myself for the eye-rolling.

Y’all, Atlanta changed my life. CHANGED. MY. LIFE.

I’m so excited to share with you how and why.

We left our church on a Thursday at 5. In the morning. Pre-sunrise. If you know me at all, it goes without saying that I definitely was not the woman bringing doughnuts, coffee and smiles to the group. Regardless of my inability to function that early in the morning, my ability to fall asleep anywhere and at any time sustained me on the van ride down to Atlanta. We had a saint of a man offer to be our “chauffeur” for the trip, and he drove us straight to the door of the arena where the conference was being held. The 13 ladies all piled out of the van, waited in line to get in, marched through the crowds, and found our seats in the nosebleeds of the venue. I think a bit of frustration had set in at that point, so the malfunctioned speaker system in our section intensified our stress level even more. After 30 minutes of not being able to hear the speakers (who had cost some of us more than we probably could’ve afforded), I’ll be the first to admit that I was not happy to be there. The thoughts “too much money” and “waste of time” were phrases I was mentally repeating over and over, and I was literally fidgeting in my seat.

Over the last year, one of the best lessons my husband has taught me is the importance of catching a problem before it snowballs and has the opportunity to cause some real damage. In my seat, I remembered Wes’s wisdom, and made the decision to change my thoughts. I needed a change of mindset and a change of mood, and I needed God’s help. So, right there in my seat, in the furthest-away section from Bishop T.D. Jakes, I wrote the following prayer:

Lord, please help me overcome my frustration. We can hardly hear anything, and from what we CAN hear, this conference seems like little more than a sales presentation. God, I want to be filled up with you and with your Holy Spirit…and I pray against any distractions. I’m not only asking for you to be with our group, but to show Yourself to our group. I love you, Lord. Thank you. Amen.

I wrote it, I whispered it outloud, and then bowed my head and closed my eyes. After my “amen,” I sat back up and decided to make friends with a woman in front of me since it seemed she was hearing the sermon better than we were. As I leaned forward, my notebook fell out of my lap, and a tiny piece of thick paper landed beside the book. I must let you know that this was a journal that I’d been writing in for weeks! My church and Bible study notes from the last four meetings were in this book, as well as my scribbled ideas for my next blog post(s). Not one time had this little piece of paper ever been seen or felt in the book. As I picked it up and read the quote on it, all I could do was get a little misty-eyed and thank God for showing up after I’d asked Him to.

“Only you can capture, in granular detail, the wonder and mystery of the vast world as you see it.

You write for the same reason you breathe—to live.

You are a writer. Write your life.”

I had come to this conference with almost unreachable expectations, one of which included my hope to have a sermon magically put me on a path I’d yet to discover on my own. It was so easy, and I was so quick to blame the blown speaker system, and eventually the main speaker himself, for my inability to grow closer to God and ultimately determine what my life’s purpose was. Over-dramatic? Maybe a bit. But I’d never been to a conference like this before, and after all the “changed my life” reactions I’d heard, my plans included a life revolution.

God showed me other plans. He showed me HIS plans for me.

When I pray, God hears me. When I write, God shows up. While I wish it was possible to have a sermon by T.D. Jakes or a funny story from Christine Caine or an audio book by Lysa TerKeurst in my ear at all times, the words of these powerful (and empowering) people do not cause God to become visible to me. God comes when I ask Him to come. God makes Himself seen by me when I ask Him to open my eyes! God’s voice can be heard by me when I ask him to open my ears! And what is the best way for me to tell the world of my one-on-one God experiences? You’re reading it.

I’ve written over 800 words at this point, and haven’t even gotten past the first hour of our 3-day experience at this conference. I have so many more stories! But, I’ll end this one. For now. God made me a listener. He made me a feeler. He made me a thinker and processer. And, after years of hearing this prophecy from so many people in my life, I’m finally allowing myself to realize that God made me a writer too. My incredible husband and I have committed to being obedient to God’s plan for us, and our God-sized dream includes writing a book (eek!). Until the time comes, I commit to you, my beloved readers, that I will write more often and with more purpose. I am excited, scared, and so thrilled to see what the future holds. I want to thank you all, from the bottom of my heart, for embarking on this journey with us.

I can’t wait to share more stories of our Atlanta trip. Until then, I’ll leave you with one question (and please share your answer in the comments!):

How and where in your life does God show up?

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“Nothing can separate us…”

“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow — not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.” -Romans 8:38

I read this verse a little bit ago, and felt led to analyze it (and add a little) for anyone reading…

Nothing can separate us from God’s love.

NOTHING.

NOTHING.

Do you know what nothing means? The word literally breaks down into no thing.

While I appreciate Paul’s exceptional writing ability, and especially love the part of the verse that says “neither our fears for today nor our worries for tomorrow” (well said!), I want to take it upon myself to expand this list.

• Not the mistakes you’ve made can separate you from God’s love.
• Not how you’ve been treated/abused/abandoned by people in your life can separate you from God’s love.
• Not the color of your skin can separate you from God’s love.
• Not the way you’ve mistreated someone in your life can separate you from God’s love.
• Not the mistakes you’ve made can separate you from God’s love.
• Not your sexuality can separate you from God’s love.
• Not any of the guilt and shame you’ve been carrying can separate you from God’s love.
• Not that horrible thing your parents/coach/teacher/spouse/sibling said about you can separate you from God’s love.
• Not the mistakes you’ve made can separate you from God’s love.Not your taste in music can separate you from God’s love.
• Not those negative thoughts you’ve had pop up unexpectedly can separate you from God’s love.
• Not your addictions can separate you from God’s love.
• And finally… (I bet you can guess the last one)… NOT YOUR MISTAKES CAN SEPARATE YOU FROM GOD’S LOVE.

This list could go on forever and ever. But again, I can combine Paul’s beautiful words with my list, and here’s what the verse will still boil down to…

NOTHING can separate you from God’s love.

He knows everything…past, present, future…and still loves you and wants you to love Him back.

There is nothing you have ever said, done, thought, acted upon or carried out that Jesus Christ didn’t already know about 2,000 years ago… And yet, He chose to die in order to wipe our slates clean. TODAY!

Nothing can separate you.

God’s love is all over your mind, body, heart, and most importantly, your life.

The list I gave above is full of reasons for people to use as a justification to judge or stop loving. Our Father, however, can’t stop loving. Ever. We simply can’t run away from His affection.

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Cancer, church and commitment

Hello dear readers! I apologize for the (exceedingly long) duration between my posts; life has been crazy and wonderful and busy and new and exhilarating. As Wes and I were driving home last night, I was absolutely overcome with the perfection of the Easter day from start to finish. I couldn’t help but let my mind flash back to some previous Easter memories, and I am so excited to share with you those stories. I promise you, my blog title will make sense once you get to the end!

 

Easter, 2008

I was in Greensboro, and had the assignment of opening kitchen manager for the holiday. Sundays at Tripps were always busy, but certain Sundays (Mother’s Day and Easter, specifically) were especially busy. Luckily, with an incredible kitchen staff and days of preparation, the brunch shift went off without a hitch, and we all were thanking and congratulating each other for jobs well done. Sometime in the late afternoon, a server came to me on the line and said I had an urgent phone call. I remember walking into the office, laughing at something said by one of our kitchen calls…completely oblivious to the fact that my laughing would be halted immediately. Beau Whitt, a dear family friend, greeted me on the other end, and as calmly as he could, told me I needed to come home. My parents had taken my sister to the hospital earlier that morning, and with the doctors’ urging, advised Beau to call me with the request to get to Asheville as quickly as possible.

I assume by now, all of you know how I can over-describe a situation and/or a memory; unfortunately, that’s all the detail you get from this day. It’s not because I’m hiding anything, it’s because the memory of that phone call is the only thing that is still clear in my mind. I don’t remember leaving Tripps, I don’t remember going to my apartment to pack, I don’t remember the drive home. When I look back on that day, searching as far back into my mind as I can reach, the only other memory I have is one from later in the evening. My immediate family is sitting all around Ali in her hospital room, and her doctor came in. He began explaining what they knew so far, and few minutes into his speech, he informed us that an oncologist would be coming in shortly. It was the only word he’d said so far that stood out in my mind. “An oncologist?” I thought. “Aren’t they cancer doctors?” I knew there’d been a mistake. I remember silently scolding myself for not paying closer attention to what the doctor had said earlier. It made no sense in my mind why an oncologist would be coming in to see Ali if she didn’t have cancer…

It only took a little while longer for me to get my answer.

They’d found a tumor.

They would run more tests tomorrow to give us more information.

My sister had cancer.

My sister had cancer.

Ali, my 24-year-old younger sister, had cancer.

While Ali’s story has a happy ending, this day, Easter Sunday of 2008, is a day filled with shock and pure grief.

 

Fast forward, 5 years later:

Easter, 2013

Wes and I had recently stopped going to a church here in Boone after never really feeling “connected,” and didn’t have any plans for celebrating Easter. We decided to go home for the weekend, and decided to go to the Sunrise Service at Pole Creek Baptist Church. I started going to Pole Creek when I was 15, so I didn’t “grow up” in this church like so many of my friends did…but my memories are countless. When I was in high school and my dad had his heart attack, it was the Pole Creek staff and congregation that came to our rescue. It was Pastor Dennis Thurman that gently persuaded my dad to start bringing our family to church. We were baptized, as a family, in the baptismal pool at Pole Creek. Some of my dearest friends throughout high school, and beyond, still go to this church. Needless to say, I was overly excited to go back and see everyone and introduce Wes to these incredible people he’d heard so much about. We’d told my parents that we were going, but didn’t think they would want to get up so early on a Sunday to join us. Late Saturday night, my dad called to ask if he could join us, and I silently celebrated. It may be the cheesiest thought I’ve ever had, but the image of sitting in between my dad and my boyfriend at my home church filled my heart almost beyond its capacity!

Even though it rained and the service had to be moved inside, being back at Pole Creek was everything I’d hoped. I got to hug so many of the women I’d grown up loving and admiring (and learning from!). My dad got to shake the hands of men who’d helped him coach softball and prayed over him when he was sick. And best of all, I got to proudly introduce the man I loved to a community that had loved me for so long.

Shortly after this visit to Pole Creek, Wes and I committed to ourselves and to each other that we would search for a church of our own. We no longer wanted to be doing our own bible studies… We wanted to join a group of believers and meet new people that we could love and learn from.

Praise the Lord; He delivered…

 

One year later:

Easter, 2014

I wrote a lengthy Facebook post on the day Wes and I joined Oak Grove Baptist Church, and I want to share that with you again…

“’Gathered at the Passover feast, the disciples were keenly aware that someone needed to wash the others’ feet. The problem was that the only people who washed feet were the least. So there they sat, feet caked with dirt. It was such a sore point that they were not even going to talk about it. No one wanted to be considered the least…
Then Jesus took a towel and a basin and redefined greatness.’”
(Celebration of Greatness – Richard Foster)
When
Wesley asked me if I wanted us to become members at Oak Grove Baptist Church, I was afraid it was too soon. However, when Pastor Michael Gragg told the congregation this morning that “greatness” at our church was going to be defined in terms of humility and washing people’s feet, I knew that it would never be too soon to join this exceptional congregation.
We are SO BLESSED to be welcomed into a church family as gracious and loving as our new one at Oak Grove.
Today is a good day.”

As I mentioned in the post, we had not been going to Oak Grove very long. When I had my first thought of becoming members, I immediately talked myself out of it since we’d only visited a few times. On the Sunday we joined, however, I couldn’t give myself one single reason not to. We were quickly becoming close friends to Pastor Michael and his wife Casey, and I could not have adored them more. People in the congregation had reached out to us for friendship. Wes’s daughters loved coming and playing with all the other children. And, most of all, Oak Grove was/is a church that very firmly preaches what it stands FOR, not against. In a time when people are so quick to vocalize what they don’t like or don’t approve, our church does the opposite. We want our community to know that we love. We help. We serve. I am so grateful we were led into this place.

(see, here’s the over-description I talked about earlier!)

Wes and I have had the honor to help Pastor Michael plan and organize the Easter service for weeks, so needless to say, we had very high hopes for yesterday morning. We got to church just in time to see people lined out the door, searching the sanctuary for open seats. Even better than that, we got to see regular members give their seats up to those who were visiting. We got to see our children sing and praise. Our traditional and contemporary worship teams paired up to lead us in the best worship I’ve ever been a part of. Pastor Michael preached a message that resonated in the minds and hearts of everyone that heard.

And, best of all…

Larson, Wes’s 6-year-old daughter, told her dad that she wanted to give her heart and her life to Jesus. When asked why, she said, “because he died on the cross for our sins and he loves me.”

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It’s that simple.

“He died on the cross for our sins and he loves me.”

There is nothing quite as humbling as hearing the purest definition of Christianity from the mouth of a 6-year-old.

After the service and the fellowship (who doesn’t love a meal at a Baptist church?!), the “usual suspects” and our kids stayed around and soaked up the sunshine and friendship as long as possible.

On our way home, Wes told me a story that will very likely stay with me the rest of my life:

At one point while he was playing with the kids yesterday, he looked over and saw four of us women sitting on blanket talking and laughing. We are four women from very different walks of life. There’s the pastor’s wife, who is an absolute super-mom to her four children, and the glue that holds Pastor Michael and their family together. There’s a woman who is beautifully (and successfully!) raising a child on her own. There’s a woman remarried, having faced (and overcome) numerous health issues, raising two adorable children, so in love with her husband and her life that it shows through everything she says and does. And there’s me, newly married, with two stepdaughters, drifting in and out of church for years. There we all were, sharing stories and jokes and advice, so happy in the moment that Wes said he felt as though it would be an intrusion to come over and sit with us. At the end of his story, he said, “What a glimpse of heaven you all were! Four of you, so different, but loving each other so strongly and so non-judgmentally, so thrilled for each moment of life you get to share with each other.”

 

Last night, while I was reflecting on the day’s events, and the events of the previously described Easter Sundays, I really couldn’t wait to write everything down. Six years ago, the day was the first in what would become an impossibly challenging and discouraging part of my life. Last year, I was able to reconnect with men and women that have made such a positive influence in my life. Yesterday, I celebrated the day of our risen Savior with my HUSBAND (!!), his adorable little girls, and a group of women that bring so much joy into my life. My sister is cancer free, also newly married, and expecting a baby boy July 4th. I have gotten to spend time with my distant family twice in the last few months. I’ve graduated college, and recently started an incredible job.

The cancer is gone. My childhood church led us to our search for Oak Grove. I have been led to a husband, a family, a group of friends, a church, and a job that I am fully committed to for the foreseeable future. I feel as though the three Easter Sundays I remember represent so perfectly my walk through life.

Happy Easter, y’all! Thank you for allowing me to share my memories with you!

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Why does it matter who you marry?

My Facebook news feed was recently flooded with an article named “It Matters Whom You Marry.” Since I was repeatedly seeing the link just days before my wedding, I saved the article to read at a later date; turns out, the later date was today, my one-month wedding anniversary.

A quick summary of this article includes a story of a young Christian girl, sitting between two completely different boys, obviously with affections towards the “wrong” one. Instead of choosing the young man serving others and clearing dishes at the dinner, the girl’s boyfriend got angry with her and intentionally spilled juice all over her white shirt and leather jacket. “She picked the wrong guy, and…is in for some grief if that relationship continues and especially if it leads to marriage,” the author writes.

 I think back to all the “wrong guys” I’ve chosen in the past, and sometimes find myself in shock that I finally found my way to the right guy. I met my husband when I was twenty years old, and not once, in the 12 years since that date, have I met a man that was more respectful, amazing, honorable, thoughtful, humble, or loving than Wes Berry. In the bible study that I’m currently reading, the entry that has stuck out to me the most is the one that tells us that we, as Christians, find it so easy to believe IN God, but not to believe God. We know He’s real; we know He loves us; we know He sent his Son to die in order to forgive our sins. What we do NOT allow ourselves to believe, however, is the collection of promises He gives us. He wants nothing but the best for all of His children. He wants our life on this Earth to be as similar to our future in Heaven as possible! Why do we have such a hard time believing that? Why did I think the closest I would ever be to having a Wes Berry in my life was to have him as a distant friend? It is so easy for us to accept mediocrity, or even worse, below average, and THAT IS NOT WHAT IS INTENDED FOR US!

Unmarried women, young and old, listen to me. There are SO MANY wrong guys out there. In fact, you may be dating one of them. The article I mentioned above tells us over and over that whom you marry DOES matter, and that’s because of how impactful to your life marriage actually is. I want to take each of the main components of the article and give you personal examples of how marriage has affected my life.

1. Marriage will impact you spiritually. There is a reason this is listed first. Married couples typically seem to find themselves with the same interests, same hobbies, same beliefs. While Wes and I are both on a high level of baseball love and knowledge, my spiritual experience severely lacks the experience he has been through. However, that wasn’t a deterrent to him. Wes has been so eager to answer my biblical and church-related questions, and hasn’t once hesitated to lead me in the direction I needed to go in order to get to know our Lord better. While my comfort zone includes praying only to myself, Wes has nudged me, repeatedly, to pray outloud each night before we go to sleep. The moments in our bed before sleep each night have become some of my favorites each day because I know that Wes is eager to hear what is on my heart, as well as God listening (and answering!) the prayers we both speak outloud to Him.

2. It will impact you emotionally.  As anyone that has read my blog knows, I made some decisions a year ago that impacted my life very significantly. I left a high-paying job in order to enroll in school full time, taking a $$38,000 pay cut. If it hadn’t been for my then-boyfriend, I wouldn’t have been able to survive. While I was writing research papers and creating brochures and newsletters, Wes was working overtime, picking up side jobs, even beginning his own business in order to make enough money to support me and pay our bills. Through all of that, he didn’t complain once; in fact, he did the opposite. He stayed more excited and determined than I did at times, constantly encouraging and reminding me of what our goal was. I honestly couldn’t have graduated college without Wes, my biggest cheerleader and supporter.

3. It will impact you physically.  When Wes and I first started talking about marriage, he said it was extremely important to him that he ask my parents’ blessing. While I thought this notion was sweet, I didn’t think it was necessary. On the day he proposed, and surprised me with my family and a group of our closest friends, my parents told me that he had driven down one day to spend some time with them, and, of course, ask their permission to propose to me. In his speech to them, he promised that he would always provide for me, giving me a roof over our heads, food to eat, and enough money to pay our bills. This man has held his word. In the days and months when we stare at our bank accounts and budgets, asking ourselves how we will make it to the next week, Wes has never let us be homeless, go without heat, not have food to eat, or even have times of fun and entertainment. Ladies, the right man will ALWAYS provide a life for you that protects you and your physical health.

4. It will impact you mentally. The list of questions the writer of this article asks is: Is the man that you’re thinking of going to be a source of worry or will he help you deal with your worries? Is he going to encourage your intellectual development, or will he neglect it? Is he going to value your opinions and listen to what you are thinking, or will he disregard your thoughts? Is he going to help you manage stress so that your mind is not burdened that way, or is he going to let you struggle through issues alone? Is he going to care for you and be thoughtful of you if you are experiencing mental strain, or will he ignore it? I have always had a slight issue with depression and anxiety, and these are issues that I “warned” Wes about early on. Instead of laughing at me or blowing it off, my future husband looked me in the eyes and asked, “what is the best way I can help when these issues arise?” Before any major decision has been made throughout our relationships, Wes came to me first, asking my opinion, wanting to know how it was going to affect me and our life together. Wes empowers me not only in my own life, but in his as well. When I am struggling with a lack of motivation, or moments of low self-esteem, Wes is the one that lets me know how much I am loved, by him, by God, by my family, by our friends. There is no greater mental growth than the one that comes from a supportive and encouraging partner.

5. It will impact you relationally. I like to think it’s a common occurrence that all teenage girls don’t get along with their mothers; it makes me feel better about how badly I treated my mom while I was growing up. Realizing the harsh words I spoke for over a decade while living in my parents’ house causes grief for me, but I am not sure this realization would have occurred without Wes. When we began dating, and I started bringing him to my family gatherings, Wes never scolded me about how I spoke to my mom, but instead asked me deep, personal questions about my relationship with her. For months and months, without my knowledge (until later), Wes would pray for my (and her) heart to be healed from the difficulties we went through when I was younger, and that a healing would come down and touch our relationship. Now, while Mom and I still have our silly arguments, I am so grateful for the forgiveness and grace that have come into my heart, and hers, and for the significant growth that our relationship has experienced. In 30 years, I never had a friend or boyfriend that challenged me to forgive myself and my mother for the difficulties we caused for each other. Wes did that. I am ashamed and embarrassed for the way I talked to and treated my mother for so long, but know that she has loved and forgiven me unconditionally.

When Wes and I began dating, he promised me one thing: the three Ps. He promised he would always PREFER, PROTECT, and PROVIDE. He has and will always prefer me over anyone else he knows, he will protect me from anything negative this world can throw at me, and he will provide for me a life that he believes I am worthy of. On the one-month anniversary of our wedding, I wanted to write a tribute to one of the RIGHT men. I married a man that has brought me closer to Christ, has made me mentally and emotionally stronger, has focused on my physical health, and encouraged a reconciliation between family members and I that has literally changed my life. The author of the “It Matters Whom You Marry” article was so dead-on in her analysis of the things that are really important in building a relationship. While there may be stories of people changing their habits, typically, the person you meet, and possibly find yourself attracted to, is the person he (or she) will be ten, twenty, even sixty years from now. Be with someone that loves you as much as you love him or her. Be with someone that protects you. Be with someone that wants not only the best for you in your shared relationship, but the best for you in your relationship with God, your family, your friends, and yourself. Believe me, it makes your life so much better. Marrying the right one makes your life, your hardships, and your struggles all worth it.

 

(Happy one-month anniversary, Wes! Thank you for making the fairytale dream of my life come true.)

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“Good things happen when you’re 32!”

 

Many years ago, there was a conversation between a girl and her grandmother that went like this:

 

Girl: When I get to be 32, I hope there is a magic potion that I can pour on myself to stay 32 forever.

Grandmother: *chuckles* Why 32?

Girl: I don’t know. It’s my favorite number switched around. And I think good things happen at that age.

 

Last December, after discovering I could graduate from App with just one more year of classes, I made the (challenging) decisions to resign from my job, apply for financial aid, and register for 6 classes in the spring semester. Shortly after, I got the email notification that I qualified for a full scholarship from the North Carolina Education Lottery. What a blessing! With that money, I was not only able to pay for all 18 hours of the spring, but also the 3 additional classes I needed to take in the summer. The second glorious financial aid letter came again in July, letting me know that part of my fall tuition would be taken care of. Now, here I am, two short months away from graduation, with a small (and hopefully manageable) balance on my account.

While financial aid enabled me to go back to school, it was my then-boyfriend that supported me from the beginning, giving me the idea that it was actually very possible for me to earn my degree. Wes convinced me that I was too smart and too motivated to not finish what I’d started so many years ago, and most importantly, no matter what the cost was to us as a couple, we would figure out a way to make it work. When I would spend entire weekends writing papers and designing newsletters, Wes selflessly did all the cooking and cleaning without seeking any recognition or gratitude. He simply found the things that needed to be done for us to survive and did them.

 

And, speaking of Wes…

The serious conversations about our future together began early in the year. As our relationship progressed, so did our inability to see our lives without each other. On the most special day of my entire life, the months of effort Wes put into surprising me with some of my most beloved friends and family were on display. When I folded up the note he gave me to read and looked up through my tears to see him on one knee, my whole world stopped. There truly are no words to adequately express what that moment feels like.

As of today, we are 46 days away from our wedding. MY WEDDING!! I am a woman who honestly believed I would never find someone to spend my life with, and now I am less than two months away from marrying a man I couldn’t live a day without.

 

September of this year brought more good news. It took Wes almost a year to convince me I should come back to ASU and complete my undergrad, but it took only a few months for me to believe I should continue my education and pursue a master’s degree. The admissions department at West Virginia University decided to give me a chance, and offered me a spot in their Integrated Marketing Communications program. I will begin classes in January 2014, just three short weeks after I graduate from ASU, and cannot wait to see what opportunities this program will bring me.

 

Last weekend, Wes and I joined a church. I JOINED A CHURCH! The last time I was an official church member was 17 years ago when my family collectively joined Pole Creek Baptist Church. While PCBC was a terrific experience that provided tremendous relationships, I was only 15. In my adult life, through all the cities and towns I have lived in, I have not been a part of a church that I felt like I could find a significant place in…until now. I am so excited to become a servant to not only Oak Grove Baptist Church, but to be among couples and families that will inevitably strengthen my relationship with Wes, my community, and my Savior.

 

I haven’t written a blog in a long time. In fact, my last blog post came after a particularly frustrating week of realizing how surprisingly costly wedding expenses were, yet also realizing that the budget isn’t the most important part of the day. The most important part of the day, in fact, is that I will walk down an aisle and marry the man God created for me. Tonight, however, warrants a new post. Tonight, when my beloved Boston Red Sox won the 2013 World Series, I needed to take some time and reflect on everything amazing that has happened to me this year. I am on my way to college graduation. I will be married in a month and a half. I was accepted to grad school. I joined a church. My absolute favorite sports team is on the field at Fenway Park, right this very moment, celebrating their Game Six World Series victory. “My cup runneth over” is a biblical statement that simply doesn’t do justice to the overabundance of blessings I have seen this year.

 

Tonight, as I think back to the conversation I mentioned earlier, when I told my Mamaw I wanted to stay 32 forever, I can’t help but assume that she remembered my wish. From heaven, she has helped make my wish come true. While I know I can’t stay 32 forever, what has happened to me and what has been given to me will stay with me the rest of my life. When I was a kid, I said, “I think good things happen at that age.” Now that I’m here, I KNOW they’re not just good things. They’re SPECTACULAR…PRECIOUS…LIFE-ALTERING…INCREDIBLE things.

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