Friday, March 25, 2016

Love and Marriage: Courtney's Advice

Happy Good Friday blog world! We are visiting Mikhail's family in Atlanta and having a great time reconnecting with his birth mother - On this particular Friday it reminds me so much of God's redemption displayed even in our little family! We are rounding out this series with my advice - and I will preface this by saying I in no way am an expert on this marriage thing and still have much to learn! Marriage is such a process and right when everything seems to be falling into place life throws you a curve ball and changes it up! One thing I will say is that a healthy marriage is in no way stagnant - it takes work and tenacity and an ability to adapt to many of life's changing situations! But alas, this is not my advice :)

In my inspiration post I was sharing that I had made some real connections about personal responsibility and ultimately joy while reading through the "You and Me Forever" book. Working through this book, coupled with a great couple's therapist, I was able to come to a life changing revelation - I had lost myself.

Somehow through life's ups and downs and over the years - careers, businesses, moves, and several children later I managed to place everything in my life as a priority over myself. I think as women, we are often times wired this way- it is very natural for us to take care of all the needs around us while neglecting our own - many times we don't even know we are doing it! I found myself in this very situation! Whatever my kids, husband, business, house, life, friend needed was what I focused on. I realized how out of touch I was with my self when my therapist asked me what my ideal life/relationship looked like - How would Mikhail treat me, how would my children behave, what would the parameters of my life look like when I would call it good. I had no idea.....I had honestly never considered what I wanted for my life - I was consumed by what everyone else wanted or needed n theirs.

This lack of self awareness manifested itself in many ugly ways in not only my marriage but other relationships as well! When you don't know how you want to be treated, how can you direct others to treat you in an appropriate and respectful way? When you are never doing anything for yourself you are quick to resent doing and giving to others - robbing yourself and the recipient of the joy intended! When you have not taken the time to refuel yourself - you are working on fumes while serving others - and those are quickly exhausted!

It became abundantly clear to me that while there were (still are) issues that pertain to us as a couple - there were some major issues between me and myself and only I could work on those! I made it a point to take care of me first! And this ladies is my advice to matter what stage in life you are in (Newly married, new mom, gaggle of children, empty nester) take the time, energy, and resources that you so lavishly pour into everyone else and instead pour those into you! This will make you a more energetic mom, a more patient partner, a more giving sister, a more loving daughter and an all around more confident woman - and nothing is more sexy and desirable than a confident, fulfilled woman!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Love and Marriage Series: Courtney and Mikhail's Inspiration


Hello Blog world! Continuing on with my week of Love and Marriage I want to share what inspires me! Since Dana took the most obvious choices - not just one but BOTH our parents and Grandparents, I had to dig a little deeper and really think about what inspires me in my Marriage.

It struck me that what inspired me five years ago or ten years ago is not the same as what inspires me today - so inspiration sources can change over the years. This made me think of what has been inspiring me in the past year - and we have needed it! We were having a really hard time this time last year and I didn't know what to do about it - I felt lost, trapped, and honestly hopeless! It just so happened that my parent were visiting when all of these feeling were coming to a head and they suggested a bible study that their church was doing together and it was called You and Me Forever by Francis Chan.
This book could not have been more timely! It really challenged me in my marriage in ways that I had not been challenged before and it allowed me to take my focus off my spouse and what I thought he was doing wrong and instead focus on me and my relationship with God as the source of life contentment and peace. This was a first step to LOTS of healing and communication in our relationship and was a Godsend - in every way that word is intended! This lead to some great personal revelations and big changes that I will share on Friday in my advice segment!


Monday, March 21, 2016

Love and Marriage: Courtney and Mikhail

Hello blog world! I hope you have enjoyed our series on Love and Marriage, I know I have thoroughly enjoyed reading up on everybody's love story and learning how they met, what makes them tick, and getting some relationship advice along the way! I get to finish out our series with my story this week because I have been married the longest in our office - we will be celebrating 14 years in a couple of months! It all started a little more than 17 years ago....

To start you must know I was a super nerd as a teenager - I had a very hard time relating to those my own age and really could care less about all the going's on in high school. It could have been that my parents moved me from Florida to North Carolina in the 2nd half of my Junior year...but either way, I had no allegiance to the high school I was graduating from and decided to graduate December of my Senior year. I enrolled in a community college and started taking classes in the spring while I waited to start college that fall - as a Sophomore of course (Totally didn't get it back then...). This will relate to the story I promise!

One night I had just gotten home from a night class and my mother called me from church. There was a family that traveled around from church to church singing and that night they just happened to be at my parent's church. Apparently the daughter in this singing group,  she was close to my age, wanted to go out after the show and wanted another girl to go with her. Mom called me and asked me to go out with this girl and I told her no - I was tired, already home, and in my pajamas. My mom then bribed me with money (I was saving for future campus life at the time) so I relented.  I drove up to church and picked up the singing group girl and off we went to Gypsies Shiny Diner!

Once we got there I realized why she wanted me to come along - I was the chaperone on a date she made the previous night at the previous church she sang at - enter Mikhail and Rob. It was very clear the whole time that not only was I the chaperone but Rob was too. While singing girl and Mikhail got their chat on, I had a great time getting to know Rob. He was a middle school history teacher, piano player, and all around entertaining. We made several mustard and ketchup people while allowing the other two to get to know each other. That's not to say that I didn't have any interaction with Mikhail that night - I did manage to drop ice cream in his lap. By the end of the date - for them - we all exchanged AIM names (for those of you not in the social scene in the 90's - that stands for AOL Instant Message - it is the precursor to texting).

Fast forward half a year or so to the fall of my first year at Meredith. I was living in the dorms and the whole hall was sick. I was feeling terrible and could not sleep so I decided to log onto to the computer and distract myself. I logged onto AIM to see if any of my friends happened to have insomnia as well and after a bit Mikhail messaged me. We had not messaged since that night we met so he proceeded to remind me of who he was and we messaged back and forth a few times. By the end of our "conversation" we had decided to meet up in a couple of weeks to get some coffee.

I honestly did not think anything of our coffee date, I didn't even think of it as a date but more of a meeting of convenience. I was going to be near where he lived, so it was on the way! We met, started talking, and time started flying! We closed that coffee shop down and drove up to Raleigh, where coffee shops were open much later, and closed that shop down too! We spent another hour or so in the parking lot before we parted ways. I left that coffee date dazed! I had no idea what just happened but I knew something did!

The very next day was the weekend before fall break and on my way home my car was rear-ended by a 18 passenger van, I had just paid it off too, and it landed me with a concussion. Not that I remember, but Mikhail called, tracked down my address, and sat on the front porch conversing with my parents while I slept inside. He did this for a couple of days! I do remember when I came to that Mikhail was there waiting with a fish in a fish bowl. I had told him during our marathon coffee chat that I wanted a mascot for my dorm! I knew then that this guy was attentive and I wasn't the only one who felt something during our coffee encounter!

That was the beginning of Courtney and Mikhail. We dated through fall, spent thanksgiving and Christmas together, The end of the school year was approaching when I had to have some answers! I fell fast and hard for Mikhail and he played it pretty cool with me. I knew that I was falling in love with him (which I did not emotionally attach easily) and I didn't know if he felt the same way. I decided that I needed to know and I didn't want to stay in a relationship where I felt more - I had to have an answer. I told him how I felt about him and within a couple of days I was home with my parents and he called me and asked if we could talk (I knew it wasn't good) Long story short - he broke up with me. He said he didn't know how he felt about me/us but didn't want to string me along or be in a relationship that wasn't equal. I was devastated! When he left I started crying and cried most of the night to the point where my eyes were too swollen to drive to my final - so my Mom took me.

Within a couple of days Mikhail called me - and told me he made a big mistake. He said he didn't know where we were going but was wrong about his feelings for me. I knew I didn't want to go back to the same relationship and I really wanted a commitment if we were going to be together - we decided to take a month off and really evaluate what we wanted and if we were supposed to be together. We prayed about it and sought advice from friends/family - we really put a lot of thought into our future. I remember being so nervous at the end of our hiatus! He picked me up and took me to sushi (My fav) and proceeded to tell me that he wanted to be with me - now and in his future. I felt the same way - the hiatus had not changed how I felt about him. It felt as if the world had righted it self!

Our Engagement photo - such a baby face! (Mikhail Hates this picture :)
We were engaged shortly there after that and were married two years later (I was a baby...). It amazes me sometimes when I think about how we met and re-met and it makes me believe that God Definitely had a plan for us - sometimes I think it was His plan for built in comic relief down here - as Mikhail and I could not be more different! I really do believe that being with Mikhail for so much of my life has shaped a lot of who I am and many of our ups and downs together have led me to a greater understanding of who I am and who we are together, and those people that we are together are people I love.
Now! Still in Love

Friday, March 18, 2016

Love and Marriage Series: Dana's Inspiration

What a beautiful day today is! I love this weather- it is my absolute favorite! Today I will be sharing what inspires me in our marriage. I first want to say thank you for letting me share my story. It was a wonderful thing to constantly reflect on my marriage this week! It was a great exercise and one that made me appreciate my spouse so much more.

The Inspiration Post is one that I have also been thinking a lot about! It was pretty easy to come up with and if you read on, you will see why.

There are two major relationships in my life that I think showed me the correct way a marriage and relationship should be. The first is my grandparents:

Married over 60 years!
We threw them a 60th anniversary party with my aunts and uncles and it was the coolest and neatest thing to have people stand up and talk about how inspiring their marriage was and is to them. And it is all so true! I love that Papa absolutely loves my Nina. He just thinks she is the best thing since sliced bread. He frets over her, dotes on her, and when she is sick - he is the sentry guarding her with everything he has. They hold hands, give each other a kiss, and are not afraid to show affection. I love this two, I love their marriage, I love their testimony, and I love that they love so fully and whole heartedly. 

The next is my parents: 
Married for almost 36 years! 
Obviously I looked up to my parents. But the one thing that I have burned in my memory is the two of them being so sappy and in love. I can't tell you how many times you would catch them kissing in the kitchen or exchanging playful looks. My friends thought it was so weird and probably gross, but I found it to be so comforting. In the world where half my friends had parents that were getting divorced, it was nice being reassured that was not the case for us. I also think that Mom showed me how to be a strong woman. She deferred to Dad on a lot of things, and truly trusted his vision for our family, but she also wasn't afraid to speak up. She had just as strong of a voice and just as much decision power as he did. She showed us a great balance of being a follower and a leader in the home.

No one can really prepare you for marriage. No matter how many books you read or advice you listen to, marriage is just plain hard. It is hard to be selfless. It is hard to wake up some days and look over and say - "I choose to love you today." It is hard to love someone so much and have your feelings hurt by them. It is hard to plan, and trust when sometimes you can't see the forest through the trees. 

As hard as it is, I know that at the core, I chose a good one. And I firmly believe that this is why - My mom saw her dad treat her mother with respect. She saw him love her unconditionally. She saw him never take his eyes off of her when she walked into the room. So, when she met my dad- she had standards. She knew how she should be treated and she didn't settle. When I was a little girl I saw my dad treat my mother with respect. I saw him love her unconditionally. I saw him never take his eyes off of her when she walked into the room and when I met Sam, I didn't settle. I knew how I should be treated. So when Ada sees her dad treat me with respect, love me unconditionally, and tell me I am the most beautiful thing - she too, will have standards and she will know how to be treated and loved. 

Love is so powerful. It transcends time and generations. I am so grateful for the example I had growing up and still have to this day! I hope that our love story inspires our children and our grandchildren one day. What a wonderful Legacy my grandparents have built. I can't even imagine anything more precious or valuable to leave on this Earth. Love truly is the best and most wondrous thing. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Love and Marriage: Dana's Advice

I hope everyone enjoyed our little love story on Monday! I so enjoyed writing it! It is easy to write how you fell in love. Now comes the tricky part - The Advice! EEK!

If you haven't extrapolated from our story, we have been together for almost 15 years, and about to celebrate 10 years of marriage this July. It should be easy to say what not to do, or what you should always do - but it really isn't that easy! You see, what works for us, may not work for you and your partner. What we find as "musts" in our relationship, may not be the same in yours. I have wrestled with what to say for a few weeks and wanted to give you some real life advice. I didn't want it to be generic like - "communication is key!" Communication is so very important - but that is not a hard one to figure out. I have settled on the unconventional advice. I want to take advice I was given as a newly married bride and give you my own spin on it.

Advice I was given: "Never go to bed angry!"

Look- I am just going to call BS on this one. At the beginning stages of our marriage I followed this rule religiously. If Sam and I got in a fight, we could not and would not go to sleep until it was resolved. I didn't want to go to sleep mad and I didn't want to lose my spooning partner. But what I found was we were just fighting a losing battle. We were tired, exhausted, and we both just wanted to get to the end of it as quickly as possible. Eventually we would "resolve" the issue, but I still woke up in the morning angry. I would be hurt by a comment that was said, or frustrated that my "side" wasn't being heard. It would be later that day that I would calmly approach the subject again. It was always a great conversation where there was so much less emotion than in the "heat" of the argument and we were both able to clearly state what was the issue. Sure it could still get heated, but in the light of the day, it all seemed so tiny as compared to the night before. Now, we do have some "rules." We are not allowed to sleep in separate rooms because we are angry, and if you are so mad you can't sleep- we at least need to get to a resting point that we can pick back up in the morning. 

I am not perfect at this because I still want immediate resolution. But what it has taught me is that the small things are indeed small. I have avoided a lot of fights by just swallowing my pride and hurt, sleeping on it, and then calmly approaching it in the morning. For example: The other day I was picking up the house and it just drives me nuts, I mean seriously BANANAS, that Sam can not seem to hang up a shirt after he wears it. It always ends up on the chest and I pick it up and hang it up. Normally, I don't really mind. I have expressed my annoyance on the issue and he has gotten better. But last night- there was a pile. I have had a particularly stressful two weeks and I just couldn't take it. I could feel the anger welling in the pit of my stomach. I wanted to yell out - "Do I have to do everything around here?!?" I didn't. I knew I was overreacting to a small thing. So I swallowed it. In the morning I calmly put everything on the bed and he looked at it and said he would take care of it tonight. I didn't NEED to say anything. If I had gone there, I would have been hurtful and accusatory and using one example to put him down to the fact "he never does anything." Which is ridiculous. If you know us, you know I don't do laundry, dishes, or clean the bathrooms. He does it all - and he does a lot. Sometimes the new day, the rising of the glorious sun can put things into perspective that exhaustion from the day before had blown out of proportion. 

Advice I was given: Don't ever talk bad about your husband to anyone ever. 

This is another one I followed really closely when we first got married. At the core, this is not bad advice. I think when people think of this, they see two women gossiping and bashing their husbands. That is not what I am advocating here. Every person needs a safe place to vent. It is SO important that you find a friend that knows your spouse, and that has similar views to you in marriage. This friend is such a resource! They are not the ones that are going to join in the husband bashing, but they are the ones that stand up for your marriage.

For example - there have been times when we as a couple just feel off. The kids have been hard, maybe there was sickness going around, we all had work pressures, and we were just exhausted. It felt like everything he did drove me crazy. I started scrutinizing everything he did, said, and just felt personally offended. I called one of my best friends. I vented about all the frustrations, his shortcomings, how he was driving me nuts. Her response was not- "ugh, Sam sucks!" But, "Dana have you looked at yourself?" Then she proceeds to talk about how Sam is not these things, and there may be something off at the moment, but that is not indicative of our relationship. She encouraged me to talk through some of these things with him, to get back to daily prayer for him and us, and she challenged me to be a better wife. She wasn't taking sides, but she knows me, she knows him, and she knows us, so she able to correctly assess the situation and give sound advice. 

If we bottle it up, and always pretend that our marriage is all rainbows and butterflies, we miss out on so much goodness! If we are afraid to be real, and afraid to say, "Yeah. my husband really hurt my feelings," then you are just asking for World War III one day when he comes home and throws his shoes down without putting them away. You need a place to vent, to gather inspiration, and to be real without judgement. 

Advice I was given: The wife is always right

We all know this saying - "The woman is always right." I can't tell you how many times Sam heard that while we were engaged. At our pre-marital counseling session, he actually said that! He told Sam, that I was always right, and he should have no say in the household decorating, or upkeep because that is my domain. Needless to say, we did not agree with this person and really had major issues with how he counseled - but that is a different story for a different day! 

I think the one thing that I love about being married is having someone call you out on your BS. In the beginning I hated it, and sometimes I still really do if I feel like I am in the right. But what it does is that is allows for a truly free conversation. We are able to be honest and it doesn't become this war of who is right and who is wrong. I don't have this feeling like I need to drive my point home so hard that he just acquiesces to the situation. That is not a partnership. I hate to be wrong - but when I am, I need to be told I am. The hardest obstacle, that honestly I am still learning, is realizing his intention. His intention is never to hurt me. He doesn't want to see me cry. He doesn't find pleasure in my pain. Realizing that at the core, when he says, "No, you are wrong," it is not because he wants to be mean, but because he cares about me and he cares about us. If he always had to say, "Yes, you are right and I am wrong," How much resentment would that breed? Our marriage would never last. 

The trickle down of this is the ability to have Sam give me insights on my other relationships. I can not tell you how many times I call Sam and say "XYZ is bugging me, and I handled it this way and I feel justified in it- was I right? Or should I have handled it this way?" I bounce things off of him before I act and he saves me from a lot of heartache and situations where I would have had to go back and apologize for my actions. He sees the situation with no emotions- so he can give me great advice. He also knows me, my heart, and my intentions and he is not afraid to tell me I was wrong and I am not afraid to hear it. 

I hope that was at least a little bit helpful to someone! Needless to say, we don't have it all figured out. Marriage is so personal! It takes time to find out what works and what doesn't work.  No one knows your relationship like you do. So, when Aunt Sally comes up and gives you the ultimate marriage advice, take it with a grain of salt and find what works for you and your partner.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Love and Marriage: Dana's Story

Hi everyone! I am continuing our love and marriage series this week! I hope you all have been enjoying this series. I certainly have! I love Love Stories - so this is totally my happy place-  to be writing about my very own Love Story.

My story is slightly cliche to the outside world. Many people ask how Sam and I met - and I say, "We met in high school." Which is then followed by, "Oh! You were high school sweethearts- how sweet!" Early on in our marriage and whenever the question was asked- I would say "No, not really. We just met there." But then it got complicated and so now I just nod my head and smile. I don't consider us to be high school sweethearts because we only dated for a month while we were both in high school and we had a relationship that was far beyond the typical high school relationship.

So - what is our story? To begin, I must share some backstory for you to truly understand who I was as a teenager. It is important to the story, I promise.

I was a closet girly girl. I had TONS of guy friends, and a handful of great girl friends, but I was much more comfortable in the guy world because I was so much more accepted there. However, I secretly was insecure about the fact that no one would ever like me. I thought I was much too tall (being six feet tall is the worst as a teenaged girl), I didn't think I was pretty enough, and I hated my body. To the outside world I seemed confident, but I was still so unsure of who I was. The Spring before high school, I was with a friend who had an older sister and she was getting ready for Prom. I was mesmerized by the gorgeous dress, the flowers, and how stunning she looked. I made a vow then and there that I would go to Prom all four years. I wanted to feel the way that she looked - amazing and beautiful.

Ok - so now you are ready for the story - get excited. It's a good one.

Let me just preface this with - I was a total nerd in high school. I know it. I am totally okay with I moved here when I was fourteen and I found my immediate group of friends in the eighth grade band room. My freshman year, still in the band, the guy I was dating convinced me to join marching band - so I did. He was an upperclassman, so for the two years we dated, I go to go to prom as a freshman and a sophomore. I was on track to go all four years, yet I still felt the same about myself. We broke up the summer before my junior year. At the time, I thought he was it. He totally broke my heart and I totally did not take it well. I was mad at the world and begrudgingly going to band camp that summer wishing I had never even joined.

A few days before camp, my director called me in his office and "asked" if I would switch to Tenor Saxophone that year. I didn't really have a choice- so I said sure. The first day of camp came and I meet my section leader - Sam Kadwell. He had gotten a haircut so I didn't quite recognize him without his long blonde hair. But he was cute - and I was a little taken aback by it. We hit it off right away. We had a few odd birds in our section and we felt like the only normal people at times who didn't find it all to be life or death. We laughed, a lot. I found him easy to talk to, and easy to be around. It didn't hurt that he was also friends with some people I had become friends with years before.

That year, I started dating another guy and Sam and I were just friends. I actually helped a girl who I worked with and who also had a MASSIVE crush on him pick him out a birthday present. I remember her talking to me for hours about him. I didn't get it. He was nice, he was cute- but I didn't see him that way. He hung out with me on our entire trip to Disney World. We would go to our friend's house and hang out. I would go see his band play (yes - they were totally awesome!). But, I never saw that he liked me. I just assumed we were buds. He will tell you a much different story that he liked me for quite awhile before I caught on.

A few months before Prom, I broke up with my boyfriend. It was the easiest and most awesome break up ever because we realized we had turned into really good friends and had no chemistry. It was great. But I was left in a slight panic that Prom was a few months away and I had no date. This was worse than any possible situation I could be in. I needed a date. I was still searching for that feeling of being beautiful.

I remember lamenting over this fact to my friend Lisa and she said, "Sam's cute, and he's tall!" Huh- she was right. He was cute, and tall. It didn't hurt that he was really nice. So, I pursued him. I made a point to hang out more and to create situations where he would have to call me to get plans for that night. We would end up on the phone for hours. I mean 4-5 hour long conversations. We talked about everything and anything. Lisa finally clued him in to the fact that I wanted him to ask me to Prom - and he did! A few weeks after he asked, we went on our first date to the Ice House. I had mentioned how much I loved ice skating, so he took me. We skated for maybe 30 minutes and then sat in the cafe and shut the place down. Now- to be honest, I did not want to really date him. I just needed a Prom date. Prom was perfect and I felt the most beautiful when he looked at me in my homemade (!!) dress. The adult version of me realized that the moment I had been searching for was not something any guy could really truly fill for me. It was purely knowing that I was loved - and the best person that could ever love me was myself. Sam showed me that.

I decided he was more than just a date to the Prom. How boring would this be if that wasn't the case? I started second guessing my plan and realized that I actually really liked this guy. So I let go. I let myself fall for him. Oh my goodness did I fall hard for this boy. I mean, totally blindsided by the love I had for him. It was scary and exhilarating. It was then that I realized my first boyfriend never broke my heart because he never had it. Sam had it - all of it - and it was terrifying.   I remember being so scared that he did not feel the same way. I was so nervous he would break up with me that summer as he went off to college. He finally pulled me aside and said he was here to stay - he wasn't going any where.

Few weeks after we started dating - we are babies!

And he didn't. My Senior year was one of the hardest of my life. My dad had moved back to Florida and was commuting every two weeks. My sister was getting married and moving out. And my mom was on the start of a very bad few years with her health. To make a super long story short, she had a procedure done that was done by an incompetent surgeon and she ended up having a brain stem stroke. She was in the hospital from October to about March. I was in high school, basically on my own. I would go to school, go to swim team practice, then drive to the hospital to see Mom. Some nights the nurses would just let me stay and I would go to school from there. Some nights, I just couldn't do it. I was too tired and I would ask Sam to go visit her. One thing that was affected from the stroke was her short term memory. So, every day I would go and she would be angry at me because "I never came to see her." She just never remembered that I did. However, she always remembered Sam coming and would recount all their adventures in rummy and tell me how he was just the perfect person and why couldn't I be more like Sam?

It was hard. Mom came home and I was her sole provider. I woke up every fours hours to give her the meds she needed. I learned how to give full body massages to help relax her. She would keep the house at 80 because she was so cold. I did it - not for any reason other than she was mom - anyone would have done it. The kid part of me struggled. I never had a parent at a swim meet- even when I made States. I never had anyone at my track meets or school things. My 18th birthday came and went with no one remembering other than a few friends and Sam. I was lonely. I was falling into a very dark time and the only person that kept me afloat was Sam. I leaned on him in ways that I never expected and he always held me up. He sacrificed so much for me that year. When I think back at how young we were (17 and 18) and the things our relationship endured- it just shocks me that he didn't just turn away running.

We had our ups and downs while we were in college. We were growing up, and we had to constantly re-evaluate who we were as individuals and as a couple. Luckily, the people we turned into were people that we still loved. There was a point when it all changed, and I don't know when it was exactly, but I stopped looking at Sam as my boyfriend, but as my partner. I knew that he was the one that I could spend the rest of my life with. There were times that I could not get enough of him. We would spend an entire day together and I would be the most pathetic thing leaving. I just wanted to be with him all the time. He had (and still does) this way of looking at me that changed the way I looked at myself. Every time he saw me he looked at me like I was the most beautiful thing in the world. He slowly changed my insecurities into something that I loved. I loved that I was tall. I loved my body. I loved my odd brown/green eyes. He saw so much beauty in me in a way that no one else every had. He saw who I was - how deeply I felt, how strong willed I was, how terrified I was of failing. He never backed away. He found my oddities to be beautiful and I learned to embrace who I was.

The spring of junior year of college, I told Sam I was ready to get engaged. We had grown up a lot in the last four years and I was ready to take the next step. I wasn't sure he was. I, of course, gave him an ultimatum. I wanted to be engaged by the end of May. If not, we would have to rethink our relationship.

The end of May came, and no ring. I knew he had one- so I wasn't too upset about it, just a little disappointed. I think it was his way of making me trust him and be patient. Two things I am terrible at. He did not make me wait too very long. He proposed June 16th and totally surprised me. I had to work that night and he had come over to eat dinner with me. He walked me to my car and then went off like he was walking to his. He actually just went back to the house with my roommates to set up the proposal. When I got off, I called him and he made it sound like he was at his house. I got home and all the lights were off. Clue #1 something was off. My roommates never turned out the lights nor did they ever turn the TV off - even when they left. I didn't think anything of it at the time. I go upstairs and there is a note on the door. It was a poem he had written. I go inside and there are balloons that are numbered. I think I stood there for a minute and said out loud. "I don't get it." Then I realized that I was supposed to pop them in order. I get to the last one which made me have me back to the door and when I turned around, there he was on one knee with the ring. Now- It was super romantic - but in that moment, my heart literally stopped and I almost kicked him. I thought I was home alone- and the sudden appearance of a man scared the crap out of me. But after the initial scare - I realized what was happening and I was so excited.

Love this photo - this is so us- me laughing at Sam being ridiculous. This was taken around the time we got engaged. 

We got married July 1st, 2006 at a little Presbyterian Church in Fuquay-Varina. It was the best day. I just remember being so happy and smiling so much my face hurt.

On our Wedding Day! I still love that dress!
I loved the first few years of marriage. Everyone always told us that the first year is so hard. But it was seriously awesome. We knew each other so well, that we didn't need much adjustment to living together. Sure, we had our fights, but all I remember of that time is so much joy. Joy about our life together, excitement about our future, and gratefulness for what we had.

Ada Jane came along on 2010 and then Henry in 2012. Watching him be a Dad has made me love him more than I ever thought I could. I still get butterflies when I think of him in random moments. I still love spending the day with him. I still love that he thinks I am the most amazing thing in this world. He is my soul mate. He is my partner. I can not imagine a more perfect person for me. He challenges me, supports me, and loves me so unconditionally. Our marriage isn't perfect - but it is so perfectly us.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Love & Marriage: Becca's relationship advice

The thing we’ve learned the most about over the past few years has been to enjoy the present.  See, we had this 5 year marriage plan – we’d be married for 5 years and then get pregnant and have the most perfect little family.  God had other plans for us.  When we were just newlyweds, we spent time serving the poor in India villages and fell in love with the children and people of India.  After a few mission trips to India that we were so privileged to be a part of, we really felt like God was calling us to stop with our plans, and to start our family through adoption.  What we thought would be a quick 15 months, became 3.5 years of waiting for our parenthood to start.  There were many days we thought it would never happen, but we did finally become parents to the sweetest little girl last September. 

on our first trip to India!

Long story short – while all of our friends were having babies and “moving on” with their lives, so we felt, we were a little stuck in this place of waiting.  Looking back and finally being on the other side, I see how sweet and precious our time was just the two of us.  We were able to move around in our careers, travel a LOT, serve others, spend time with friends, and spend so much time together. 

Our culture has a habit of always moving forward, always focusing on the “next” season of life and we’re so easily tempted by what everyone else is doing.  I’ve learned through all of our waiting, that right now really is a sweet season.  There is so much joy robbed in the now when we are always focusing on what’s next.  It’s true, there is always hard stuff in every season we’re in (we’re human!), but I believe that stopping to soak up the now, especially in marriage, has rich reward.  So – my advice to you, whether you are single, dating, engaged, married – soak up the NOW.  You will never get back this time!
photo courtesy of S2S Photography

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Love & Marriage: Becca & Jake - What Inspires Us

This picture is of my grandparents on their wedding day - Jake and I have been blessed to see many of the family marriages in our lives played out.  We're inspired by those who have gone before us - those who've made promises on their wedding day that they've kept, regardless of how hard their marriage has become, or what life has thrown at them.  We've learned through these marriages that love is:

a daily decision - one where we choose to act in love regardless of our feelings

a decision not to be rushed into but to be thought through with care

becomes a relationship that has a mushroom affect - touches all those around you

We've decided and hope to hold fast to the idea that we want our marriage to live beyond us - we want our marriage to leave a legacy for others to follow - we want to be that couple that others say "gosh they are so in love" - even when we are old and gray and great grandparents.

We've learned so far that building a marriage takes so much work + prayer + community, but is so worth it!  Here are some books we've learned so much through that we want to share with you:

For Men Only/For Women Only - Shaunti  & Jeff Feldhahn

Love and Respect - Emerson Eggerichs

The 5 Love Languages - Gary Chapman

Sheet Music - Kevin Lehman

Sacred Marriage - Gary Thomas

Monday, March 7, 2016

Love and Marriage: Becca's Story

Happy Monday friends!  

Today in our Love and Marriage series I’ll be sharing my love story!  If you don’t like mushy stories - don’t read this blog series - we have a lot of love going on!

Growing up, I always had hoped to one day truly marry my best friend.  Sometimes I think that can be cliche wordage as many people do marry someone who becomes their best friend, but I can honestly say that my relationship with my husband was built upon a solid friendship first.  I was always told by my parents that God has picked out a husband specifically for me, and they encouraged me to wait and not give my heart away until I had met “the one.”  

It was freshman year of college, and I was at a superbowl party - 2004 to be exact, the year the Carolina Panthers were playing.  I was at my boyfriend’s house at the time, with a group of friends, and the boyfriend introduced me to one of his new friends, “Jake.”  Jake was a band boy, you could tell, complete with long hair and skinny jeans and a southern accent.  He sure wasn’t my “type”, so I thought nothing of it when we met.  That night after meeting, he went home and told his whole suite that he had met the girl he was going to marry.  He’s always been so much more intuitive and great at reading people and situations than me!  

around '06 - college sweethearts

Fast forward a bit - I broke things off with the boyfriend, and Jake and I spent lots of time together hanging out and going to college events.  He would pick me up from Meredith and we’d sit in his car for hours and chat. I was starting to see that he was really a great guy and what I would call “marriage material.”  After dating a couple guys I met in college, I made a pact with myself to sit back and let the right guy pursue me - believing fully that God would put the right man in my life when it was time.  Jake and I were still spending so much time together and I just really didn’t think he was into me - after all, if he was, wouldn’t he pursue me more/ask me out?  Come to find out, we had become the best of friends and I think were both afraid to mess that up.  I would talk to my best friend and mom about him, and he would spend hours talking to his older brother about me.  My mom convinced me that even though he wasn’t the “type” I thought I would end up with, he had all of the important things that really mattered in a partner.  He was so fun, made me laugh constantly, was tenderhearted and truly cared about others, and just so genuine.  I became so crazy about him!

Finally, before spring break our junior year, he confessed that ALL THESE YEARS he had been crazy about me.  I, too, confessed the same - and after a few days praying and talking it out, we started dating.  I was careful to jump into another relationship, because at this point, I knew I wanted him to be the one.  After that spring break, we started officially dating - in May we will have been together for 10 years and we’ll celebrate 8 years of marriage in August.

He proposed on a surprise date night in Wilmington at Airlie Gardens - complete with a fancy dinner date and a sweet book of notes with the final page saying, “will you marry me?”  We were engaged for 8 months and got married at a gorgeous private estate in Youngsville - seriously the happiest day!
Photo courtesy of S2S Photography

He continues to be my best friend.  He continues to make me laugh and to pursue my heart and spoil me.  He really is my biggest fan and loves me like crazy.  He’s even more attractive as a new dad! :) He’s such a great dad to our daughter.  For any of you readers waiting on the right partner - just know they are out there and they are worth the wait! Don’t settle!  I’ll share more in a later post about how marriage and starting a family changes thing, but one thing I can say - with hard work, prayer, and a lot of grace and fun, our marriage has only become better over the past few years.

photo courtesy of Dana Laymon Photography