I Got My Airplane Scene…

We hadn’t seen each other in seven months. And even when we were in each other’s company, I hadn’t really talked to him much. Here I was though, on Valentine’s Day, opening a package he sent me. It didn’t seem like something special to most people- a video of our missions trip to Ireland and a tape he made of some shows I could watch since my family didn’t have cable TV.

But I knew something was there because it was a thoughtful gesture. Most guys don’t put that much thought in a present for a girl they aren’t dating. I knew this guy was different.

So 16 years ago, I called a friend from college who lived near where Stephen went to school. Her family was gracious enough to let me stay with them (and of course visit my friend at the same time). So I bought a plane ticket and went to see this guy who sent me seashells from his home and emailed me everyday.

Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash

When I told him I was coming, he was clearly excited. He wanted to plan my whole trip- meeting his grandparents and visiting him at school and going to soccer games and hiking and…. I had to remind him that I was visiting my college friend.

So I flew to South Carolina. Met him at a bagel shop and went hiking. We went on our first date at Macaroni Grill, where he just smiled at me the whole time. Ate with his grandparents, who he was living with at the time. Went to his soccer game. Walked in the park. Went shopping, even.

There’s just one thing about all this that was off- I had no idea where we stood as a couple. He never told me he liked me. Were we just friends or more than friends? Were we dating? Was there a future in all this? That is why I had come to visit. I didn’t feel these were things to discuss over the phone.

The night before returning home, my friend and I watched him play in a soccer game. After, we went to Steak n Shake for a snack, and then it was time to say goodbyes because my flight departed mid-morning and Stephen had classes.

Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash

Can I just say that goodbyes are always awkward for me? Do you hug or shake hands or just wave? Kick that feeling up a notch and that is where I was as we walked out to the parking lot. He opened his truck door and pulled out a gift and a card.

What?

“It’s just a thank you gift for coming to visit.”

At this point I wasn’t sure what to think. Either he liked me a lot and was too nervous to say anything, or this was a non-verbal declaration. I now know that since he is a man of few words, it was the latter.

In this pivotal moment, I was a little irked though.

“I don’t think I can accept this.”

Stephen’s face was in shock. I don’t know that I’ve seen him that shocked since then.

“Why not?”

“I don’t know under what pretense I am accepting this. You don’t normally give people a ‘thank you for visiting gift.’”

“I don’t know what you want me to say. I like you a lot.”

Hmmm. That made things slightly little clearer. He looked like a tortured soul who finally broke after water boarding. So what does this ridiculous redhead do?

“That’s what I needed to know. I like you too.”

And I got in my friend’s car and left him standing in the parking lot.

Yup.

That whole night, I barely slept a wink. I was leaving South Carolina in the morning with so many unknowns still. And I knew I had been an absolute jerk. Cell phones were still a luxury item at that point, so I couldn’t call him.

Photo by Everton Vila on Unsplash

My friend dropped me at the airport and left. I had a little extra time before leaving, so I didn’t go through security right away, but I was heading in that direction.Then I heard a man say my name.

It was Stephen.

He came to say a better goodbye and to elaborate on his confession the night before. We sat down at the gate, and he told me that he really, really liked me. That he knew I was special and he was almost for certain we were going to get married someday.

I was pretty much flying before I even boarded the plane.

Awhile ago, I read an article telling women that airplane scenes do not happen. And while I agree with the sentiment, that sometimes we expect too much from our guys and they can’t live up to our lofty expectations, every now and then reality can be better than fiction. It’s okay to enjoy the moment when it happens.

So many people ask how we met, and while that is a great story, the account I just shared is my favorite. It shows just a glimpse of how our lives would be, 16 years and 7 kids later. Sharing his feelings can be like a tooth extraction on a shark, but when he does- he leaves no question as to his love. And sometimes my true redhead tendencies come out in cruel ways.

And I share this with you, dear readers, because I want you to know something this Valentine’s Day: Despite all the jaded nay-sayers who rail on about Hallmark holidays, romance is not dead. Sometimes it is just as awkward and funny and sweet as the rom-com’s make it out to be.

Everything Doesn’t Come Up Daisies…

“I think you need to come pick some daisies,” my mom told me. “There’s a bumper crop of them this year.”

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I’m slightly irritated when she mentions this. Not that I don’t want to pick the flowers or anything. There are few things I enjoy more than fresh flowers. No, my annoyance goes back to when I was wedding planning 13 years ago.

I didn’t want conventional flowers. I wanted simple. To be totally forthcoming, I wanted cheap. Cheaper the better. My motto when wedding planning was “It’s only one day.”

So I bought seeds in early spring. Planted them in pots and and started them in little peat moss pods. I was going to grow my own bouquet for my wedding. This was going to work.

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Yes, “Nothing Comes Easy” did show up. I had lush foliage but not a single flower. I bought all the daisies a local florist had to make up for my cheapness. My wedding did have flowers, but not nearly as many as I had hoped for.

My mom planted those pots in her flower beds. The next year, she had big, beautiful daisies. And every year since, those daisies have become a large portion of her landscape.

And I love it. But I also am annoyed that my original plan didn’t work.

As Stephen and I approach our 13th anniversary, I think that those first daisies (or lack thereof) give a beautiful picture of marriage.

Seeds sown, watered, cultivated. That work made some greens, but it needed a bigger plot with better drainage and nutrients to make the blooms come out.

If I had thrown out those pots of leaves, I would have missed out on a lot.

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More than once have I heard people say, “Marriage isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.” In part, it is true. We spend so much time and effort putting together the dream wedding and the perfect honeymoon that we forget there is a lifetime of normal after that. Often there comes a let down after the last present is opened and the sand is washed out of the swim trunks.

At this point, some people decided to toss out the pot because there are no flowers.

When the socks are left on the floor and the hair isn’t on point; that’s when the real marriage beings. And we can be really quick to write it off as a life of unfulfilled relationship goals, when in reality, it is just the beginning of something greater.

Those first few years help set a foundation. And they are messy at times, as two unique individuals become one. In heaven you are one when you make that covenant before God, but on earth it takes a little longer for the reality to set in.

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Trust me, I know. I am a northerner through and through. I even chose to go to college where snow didn’t melt completely until the first week of May. And my husband? He’s as southern as they come. Born and bred in Florida. Never been north of the Mason-Dixon line until after college. What’s more, I am a woman of extroverted nature. My dear Stephen is more subdued and reflective. So not only were there extreme cultural differences, but there were personality differences too.

We had a lot of learning and adjusting to do as we entered marriage. Giving and taking. Submitting and insisting. Accepting and changing. But as we endeavored (and still do) to do this marriage thing God’s way, He grafted us together and made us one. He took all that pretty foliage and transplanted it into a better place. And just like my daisies, our union has bloomed into something almost overwhelming.

What’s crazy to think about is that we haven’t even been married that long. I think of my grandparents who have been married over 60 years! So this will just keep getting better and better as we keep on keeping on! It’s just an incredible thought.

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I know that we have, and will continue to go through trials in our marriage. It isn’t always easy. But the longer you grow your relationship, the deeper those roots go, and the better your marriage can last those storms that will inevitably come.

I picked those daisies at my moms. They were handed out to friends and some still sit on my piano. And I smile when I see them, because they remind me that my plans in marriage didn’t work out. Only God could take something so unfruitful and unestablished and make it bloom and grow. His grace working itself in every area of my life.

 

Printables featured in this post courtesy of Mothers of Daughters.

A Letter to My Kids : Real Love

My Dear Children,

Love between a man and woman is an amazing gift. It is something the God created before the curse of sin took hold. It is something that remains even though we are soaked in the curse itself. It is beautiful and pure and indescribable when God’s Hand is in it.

I really, truly hope that your father and I have given you a good example in regards to how to be a married couple. We’ve shown you the ups and downs, because we want you to have a realistic view of marriage. We laugh, we cry. We agree and sometimes disagree. But at the end of the day, we love each other very much. When done right, done God’s way, this love we have is a fantastic journey.

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The culture around us has really skewed not only what marriage should look like, but love itself. They use phrases like, “Falling in” and “falling out” of love. We love everything, from our favorite ice cream to our pet. We think love is a physical act instead of a lifetime commitment. Love has become cheap today. The funny thing is true love is one of the rarest treasures on the earth.

What it comes down to is this: we confuse “love” with “lust”. Fervent desire is not a bad thing when put in the right context. I think of Amnon and Tamar. Amnon had developed lustful feelings toward his half-sister, Tamar. (Ew, I know.) He confused these feelings with love. The feelings were not appropriate and yet he acted on them. He not only abused and damaged his own sister, but after he got “what he wanted”, he despised her. He used Tamar.

That is not love, my children.

Love doesn’t “use” people; it wants to be useful to the person loved. Real love follows God’s original design. It isn’t something that we fall into and out of as our feelings or hormones or moods change. It’s a commitment.

I look back to all the crushes I had as a girl. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a hundred. They came and went as my preferences changed. We can be fickle creatures.

These crushes were fleeting feelings with no roots. There was no substance, but a lot of time wasted on dreaming of a future that would never happen. Most of them were people I was only acquainted with… I didn’t really know their personalities or character. We call crushes “Puppy Love” but it really isn’t love at all.

When we make the commitment to love one person and they reciprocate, there are benefits. There comes an emotional attachment. The physical act of love – which, by the way, is meant for marriage alone- is awesome. And something else happens that I have a hard time explaining. There is a union of souls. Two become one. It really is a thing. It’s beautiful.

 

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Why am I talking about this? What’s the point?

Don’t settle. Don’t settle for just one part of that love. Keep your desire for the whole package because that is the only way you will be satisfied in a love relationship. When we focus on just one aspect, we miss out on all the blessings God intended for us in marriage.

Settling can look like many things. Bouncing from one boyfriend/girlfriend to another. Sex outside of marriage. Obsessing over celebrities or people you cannot have. Marrying someone you have no love or respect for, or doing so for reasons that make them simply useful instead of cherished. Thinking that you always have the option of divorce in marriage. Acting out on a feeling in the moment.

Love is so much more than a feeling. It is even more than a decision. In its right place, love is the perfect intentions of a loving Father who desires His best in our lives. My prayer, and your dad’s as well, is that each of you will find that love when the time is right.

Love,

Mom

 

When the Honeymoon is Over

We’ve all seen it. The couple who can’t keep their hands off each other. They look deeply into the eyes of their beloved. The words of affection. The heartache when they are apart. The newlywed stage.

The honeymoon is really venerated as the epoch of a marriage relationship. Being a newlywed is supposedly the most in love you can be. We are told to keep the newlywed state of mind in our marriages. We are encouraged to keep that first year excitement alive.

I’m here to tell you it is a great phase of marriage. A needed phase. But I never want to go back to that first year. I know that this sounds harsh, and for a lot of young couples this will sound like my marriage is on the rocks.

It was fun starting out. Setting up a new home. Learning about each other. Having all that time to go out or stay in. It’s like the date that never ends. And it just isn’t realistic. It’s too much of a good thing.

Eventually life gets really real. Work, kids, mortgage. Perhaps job loss, fertility issues and financial struggles. These trials need more than hand holding and sweet nothings whispered in ears.

When inevitable storms roll in, you need more than feelings of love to make it through. You need a steadfast commitment to withstand the impending disaster.

The emotions of love are incredible. But the commitment of love takes a marriage to another level. The choice and covenant to be bound to one another until death becomes more real as the years and trials and joys roll in.

Twelve years into my marriage, and I know a lot more about my husband than what his least favorite food is. I know what he does when work is crazy busy. I know what happens when his heart is broken but doesn’t want to say. I know how he loves his kids.

And I can say without a doubt I love him more today than I did as a 22 year old college student.

Our life doesn’t fit the “honeymoon through life” mentality but more of a “quiet passion” mindset. It’s there. We both know it. That is all that matters to us. We don’t need to prove our love to the world.

That’s not to give a free license to not show your love outwardly at all. No! No! No! But this is an invitation to get rid of the expectation that your relationship should be as it has been since its beginning.

So don’t feel as if your marriage is in danger because you are not in that honeymoon stage anymore. It’s not meant to last forever. And if we left our marriages in the honeymoon stage, we end up settling for a love that isn’t as deep and real as it could be. As it should be.

 

 

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