Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Celebrating with Family

It's been fun for me to blog about Dustin and my story.  If you want to read the whole thing start HERE and go forward.  

So I left off in my last blog post at the look out where Dustin asked to marry me.  After spending many moments enjoying this special night he asked me if I wanted to go back to my apt to start calling people.

What he didn't tell me was that my family and his family would be there wanting for us.  I can't tell you the joy and surprise I felt to see the people who mean the most to us standing in the room waiting to celebrate with us.  
It was one of the surreal moments where all the prayers and desires our families had prayed and hoped for us came to fruition and it was now time to celebrate.

I've had very specific prayers as I've prayed for my wedding over the last several years, one of them being that I would have the opportunity to plan a wedding with my mom and sister.  It was fun to realize on this night that prayer had been answered and it was time to start planning!  
My nieces had no idea what was going on, but they LOVE Dustin so I think they were ok with this night of celebration (despite what their faces might say:-))!  

We opened some fun gifts, ate some food, and celebrated this special night.  
Although everyone else had time to process that we were getting engaged, I was still taking in that I had just happened!  Dustin told me he felt a hug sigh of relief because he had been keeping this secret for about about 3 weeks since he had asked my parents.  
It was also super fun to call and text some of our friends and have them celebrate with us!  I loved hearing their excitement (and some tears) as they celebrated all that the Lord had done to bring us to this place.  
I went to bed that night with the fullest heart (and maybe staring at my ring just a little) and could not stop praising God for the way he brought us to this place.  I really believe our story is a sweet story of God's faithfulness to us in our in our singleness, in our waiting, in our dating, and now in our engagement.  

And now we are engaged and planning a wedding.  It's been 2.5 months since that day and such a fun (and busy) season.  In some ways we are counting down the days until we get married and in other ways we are wanting to soak up every moment of engagement.  I want to embrace the gift of this season God has given us and also prepare for what God has next!  
October 29th will be here before we know it!  
So that's the completion of my blog entries on our story, although in many ways our story is just beginning and I have much more to write.  

Here's to a new season and much more to come...

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Sunday, July 24, 2016

Engagement Day

The day Dustin and I got engaged, May 14 20016,  is a day I don't ever want to forget! 
 Dustin started our day off telling me that he had several surprises for me (but wouldn't tell me how many) He arrived at my apt close to lunchtime (having met my parents that morning to pick up the ring that had been at the jeweler) and told me lunch was in the car!  
Surprise #1
He showed up at my door with a dozen roses.  They were beautiful and so fun to receive.  

Surprise #2
He took me to UAB's campus (where he was once on staff and is returning to be on staff) for a picnic on the lawn.  We ate Jimmy John subs (my favorite) and enjoyed beautiful spring weather.  When we were finished eating he showed me his campus and world there.  
After lunch we came back to my apt for Surprise #3.  
Surprise #3
Tennis balls so we could go play tennis.  Tennis is my favorite sport and since dating, Dustin has started playing with me.  It's something we really enjoy doing together and was so fun to do on this day!  

After being outside for awhile and getting very sweaty we took a break to take showers and regroup before surprise #4

Surprise #4 
Dinner at a Japanese restaurant.  I once told Dustin that I loved Japanese steakhouses and would love to go to one sometime.  He did some research and found a good one in Vestavia Hills that we went to for an early dinner.  it was really yummy but Dustin was definitely super quiet during dinner. Now the quietness makes sense.  Boy was nervous:-)  

After dinner we were scheduled to go meet his friends at an overlook in Vestavia Hills.  Like I said in my last post his friends had asked to do some photos to help their photography business.  To be honest I was not super excited about this but was trying to be a good sport.  The weather was beautiful and I knew we would get some good photos!  
If you want to know at this point if I was suspicious, I definitely was but Dustin was really good at downplaying this whole thing and even showed me a text his friends had sent about the photos.  I also had in my head that we probably wouldn't get engaged until July. Let's remember he never talked to me about  a ring:-)  

Surprise #5
We arrived at the lookout right before sunset and met his friends Alec and Katlie.  They were great at arranging us for pictures and thanking us for being their "models".  It was a beautiful night and was actually a little fun to take photos together.  They took a few photos of us before telling me they wanted to get one with Dustin behind me.  As I was looking at them and Dustin was behind they snapped a few and then told me I could turn around.  It was at this point that I saw Dustin on one knee.  It was one of the must surreal, crazy moments I've ever experienced.  I immediately saw tears in his eyes as he begin to express his feelings for me, tell me he loved me and then asked me to marry him. 

When he took out the ring he immediately asked me if I recognized it.  You see the back story of not ever talking about rings was that my mom wore a beautiful diamond on her right hand that I had admired since I was 7 years old.  It was big and beautiful and fit my finger perfectly.  I knew I wanted that ring and even prayed when I prayed about marriage that one day that ring would be passed down to me.  The ring was my great great aunt Hedies and is over 100 years old.  It has stayed in the same setting for all these years and was passed from Hedie, to my grandmother, to my mom, and then to me.  I love the story behind it and that not a single thing about it has been changed in over 100 years.  It was even the perfect fit for my finger!  

To say I was excited about the ring was an understatement, but even more importantly I couldn't believe that this man who has so patiently and tenderly pursued my heart was now asking me to be his wife.  It's one of those moments I've dreamed of and prayed about for so long that in the moment I couldn't believe it was happening.  I think I actually responded with, "are you kidding me?"  but then definitely gave him a quick "yes"!

The moments after were some of the sweetest that Dustin and I have experienced.  The photographers were there, but they were at a distance and we were able to spend those moments just soaking in the joy of what happened.  The sun was slowly setting and the moment was beautiful.  He was able to express to me the words that he said he had wanted to express to me for a long time, and I was able to respond.  

Having his friends photograph the whole evening was one of the best parts.  For me being an amateur photographer and really valuing photos it was so special to have these pictures taken and to be able to have them for a lifetime to document this special night.  
Dustin thought through it so well and and couldn't have chose a better way to propose to me.  We stood overlooking the city we fell in love in and relished the day.  

This day is in some ways is a day I have dreamed about since I was a little girl, but in other ways I did not let myself ever think about it.  Thinking back over that day it really was so very perfect to me.  The timing, the day, the way Dustin planned it out was so very special. I'm thankful for a man who cares so deeply for me that he put so much thought in planning out every detail.  

Thank you katie and Alec for capturing our engagement so beautifully and giving us a gift we will always treaure.  Check out their blog post on our engagement HERE

After awhile of enjoying being together and being ENGAGED Dustin asked me if I wanted to go back to my apt to start calling our family.  Little did I know that he had one more surprise!  

To be continued....
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Saturday, July 9, 2016

Part 2 of our Dating Story

"There is strength within the sorrow. There is beauty in our tears, And You meet us in our mourning with a love that casts out fear. You are working in our waiting, you're sanctifying us. When beyond our understanding, You're teaching us to trust. Your plans are still to prosper, you have not forgotten us. You're with us in the fire and the flood, You're faithful forever Perfect in love. You are sovereign over us" 

(Michael W Smith)

The words of this song have played in my heart repeatedly over the last couple years as I walked through singleness, went through break-ups, and prayed for my husband.  Now as I enter a new season I continue to process these words and am continually reminded of the the intricate way the Lord works in our lives.  

Looking at my ring on my left hand is a daily reminder of that fact.  If you started reading my story you can go HERE to read part 1.
And now I'll continue with part 2...
It's a long one, but I want to remember all the details and our story!  This is my scrapbook for me, but I hope it will be an encouragement to anyone who reads!  
 I knew Dustin was special from the beginning but my heart also held so much fear. The fear slowly shifted away in our dating, but we would both say that a trip we took to NYC together the beginning of April was when things really changed.  Taking Dustin to NYC was possibly one of the more nerve-wracking times for me in our relationship.   NYC holds such a deep place in my heart and it's such a unique place.  I knew I was taking him to a piece of my world that was very dear to me and I wasn't sure what to expect.  

Although the weekend in many ways was a complete whirlwind, which included taking him to see his first broadway show (Les Mis), spending time with lots of my friends, seeing the sights, and showing him my world, It was also a weekend with lots of quality time and some really great conversations.  I remember sitting in one of my favorite little NYC restaurants (Tartine) with him in the middle of Greenwich village on a date together dreaming about life and future and knowing in that moment that I would follow him anywhere.

Although we didn't talk about it we both left NYC feeling confident that "this was it".  
I remember praying for Dustin a lot that week afterwards.  The school year was winding down for him and he was in the middle of making some big decisions.  unbeknown to me in that week Dustin was putting a plan into motion to move forward in marrying me.

One of the things I respect so much about Dustin and the way he led our relationship is that he guarded my heart so well.  We didn't talk about a future together, he didn't make me promises about the future, and he didn't tell me he loved me.  What he did do was affirm me of his adoration for me and care for me.  I knew he was invested and he made it as clear as he could that he was committed, but he didn't make promises he couldn't keep.  

It was in the month of April that he made the decision to transfer with CRU (Campus Crusade) to Birmingham, but we still never talked specifics about engagement and marriage.  I knew our relationship was serious and in my heart I knew we were probably going to be getting engaged at some point, but the timing of that was unknown to me (I definitely had a couple freak outs that we never talked about a ring:-)).  Although it was hard to follow in the moment, I am so thankful that Dustin asked me to trust him and didn't give me the details of timing.  He knew what my heart needed and he didn't give me more or less.  

Flash forward to the end of April when we were both going down to the beach for different work retreats.  We were scheduled to meet up at the beach for me to join him on his staff retreat, but were taking separate cars down there.  What I didn't know when I was already at the beach was that Dustin was making a little detour to my parent's house in Fairhope on his way. 
 It was on April  28th that he asked my parents if he could marry me!  
I love hearing about that night and the time he had with my parents.  
And he's a pretty good secret keeper because I would never have known those days we were at the beach together that he had asked my parents and had a date to propose!
May came and we went back to life and work after the beach.  May was going to be a busy month for me and he was preparing to leave for a summer project in June.  Because of this we really talked through the calendar and when we could get time together.  He asked me one night on the phone to not plan anything for May 14th.  He wanted to plan a special date for us since it was one of the last weekends we would have together for awhile.  
He told me he wanted to surprise me but that he needed to ask me one question....Some friends of his had messaged him and ask him if we would take some pictures for them to help them build their photography business.  They needed some practice and needed some "models" to help them.  Although I felt like it was a little strange for us to take pictures together like that, I pretty easily agreed to it in order to help his friends out!  

Although in my head and heart I wondered when we would get engaged, I really had no idea what to expect when May 14th rolled around.  
To be continued....
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Saturday, June 4, 2016

The Beginning of Our Story

I've sat down to write this post several times, but it's always hard to know the words to write.  The emotions are still so raw as I process this new chapter of my life and try to share it with others.  
When I look back on the last 10+ years of my life there has been 1 consistent desire, ache, and prayer of my heart.  The ache that has run so deep that some days it was physically painful, a desire that has filled my heart that I didn't know what else to do but to give to to the Lord, a hope that I often wondered if the Lord would ever fulfill.  Day after day and year after year I prayed that the Lord would give me the desire of my heart.  As I sought to live my life to the fullest each day that the Lord gave me I often wondered how he was writing my story.  I watched one friend after another meet their spouse and I bought 17 bridesmaid dresses in 12 years as I stood beside my closest friends and celebrated their wedding day.  I dated some, but one way or another each relationship ended with a broken heart. I had many nights where I felt forgotten by the Lord and prayed that I wouldn't doubt God's goodness to me.  I have lived a very full life of friendships, travel, ministry, adventures, and life in one of the most glamorous cities in the world.  Life has never been dull for me and the Lord definitely taught me so much about living in contentment, but the ache never went away.  

Moving to Birmingham was a step of faith for me.  I knew without doubt it was where the Lord was leading me, but it was one of the hardest decisions i've ever made.  My first day and months in Birmingham were some of the loneliest I've ever experienced. I again gave the desires of my heart to my Father and asked him to meet me in this city that was my new home.  As I settled in to my new life and role I saw the Lord provide for me each step of the way and show his faithfulness to me.  It was a sweet season of experiencing God as not just my Father but as my friend.  

And then October 7th came and I met this guy Dustin for a coffee date at Octane in Homewood.  I walked away from our time together knowing he was different and knowing that I wanted to see him again.  Thankfully he felt the same way and asked me out for another date!  I remember the night he called me after we had gone on a few dates and he said to me "I want to pursue you until you tell me to stop."  I remember smiling with hesitation when he said that because as much I believed he really was sincere, the hurt from my past caused me to doubt.  But I fought to believe him and slowly begin to trust him.  From the beginning Dustin was patient with me, he pursued me with consistency, and he never made me question his feelings for me.  He is a man of God who has fought to pursue me with integrity and purpose.  He showed me that I could trust him and as days went on my heart slowly opened to him.  

Dating Dustin was one of the most fun seasons thus far in my life.  We learned quickly that we saw much of life the same way, enjoyed many of the same things, and could have fun doing almost anything.  It wasn't hard or dramatic (like dating can at times be), but was simple and fun.  We talked for hours, traveled to meet friends and family, enjoyed Birmingham together, and even begin watching from the beginning my favorite show "Friends".  We often joked that we were waiting for the red flags to pop up, yet couldn't seem to find them.  As time went on it was clear that maybe God had called both of us to wait because he was going to bring us together.  

  I tell him now that he was the man that God used to heal my very hesitant and broken heart.  He's the answer to my many nights of desperate prayers, he's the one I waited for And I can honestly say he was worth the wait.  We dated for about 6 months when he asked me to marry him.  It was a dream come true for me and one of the most special moments of my life.  But that story is a story of itself and I will have to write that in another blog post!  

I've always prayed that if God did bring a husband for me that our story would be a testimony of his faithfulness.  As I think back on the years of singleness for both of us and then last 6+ months together I continue to be in awe of the very real way that prayer has been answered.  I hope to continue to write our story on here and for it to always be a reminder of what a good and gracious God we serve.  

To be continued....
(engagement story coming up next) 

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Sunday, March 6, 2016

Hudson's Heart

When I moved to NYC in 2008 I prayed for "a person".  You know like the Meredith and Christina friendship on Greys Anatomy (for all you people who still watch that show) 
I have it in my journal where I wrote it down for God to provide that kindred spirit of a friend in the giant city I was moving too.  Thankfully God answered it quickly in the person of Amy Sylvestre, (then Amy Alexander).  She was the first person I met when I interviewed at Redeemer, and the person who became my closest friend.  We worked side by side in a cubicle for 5 years, led a community group together for all those years, led a mission trip to South Africa together, and walked through the highs and lows of life side by side each and every day. It was a special friendship for so many reasons!  Years went by and eventually the Lord led both of us out of the city and provided a husband for Amy.  

one of our many adventures
to see Sugarland perform at the Pennsylvania fair

Even though miles separated us, the once in person friendship turned into a phone friendship. I remember when Amy told me she was pregnant with Graham.  She was visiting NYC after she had moved away and used  a Friends epsiode (which was perfect for us since we live our lives in Friends quotes) to tell me.  And I then I remember when she called me to tell me she was pregnant with Hudson.  

A few months later I remember the text when she told me that they saw something abnormal on her ultra sound and to please pray.  and then the text to say she was going into surgery to deliver sweet Hudson a few weeks early.    

I write all this because for the last 7 months one of my best friends and her husband have been on a very difficult journey.  And sweet baby Hudson has been fighting for his life, born with half a heart, from the cardiac intensive floor at Children's hospital of Pennsylvania. And tomorrow he is having is 2nd heart surgery and needs our prayer. 

As I sit miles and miles away wanting so badly for Hudson to be well and healthy and for this sweet little baby to not be fighting for his life all I know to do is pray.  And to ask others to pray. The thing is it's been so incredibly  difficult to see the Lord in all this, but I believe that he is.  I know that He is.  And I know that He is good father who loves Hudson so very much.  

And so tomorrow as you go about your day will you pray for him?  Will you pray for Hudson's surgery and for the many doctors who will be working on his heart tomorrow?  Will you pray for Amy and Corey as they entrust their son to the surgeons and as they wait while he is in the operating room.  Will you pray for Hudson's life and for the perfect plan that God has for him in the days, weeks, and years ahead?  

I know God is Lord of Heaven and earth and he is holding Hudson so very close to his heart tonight and tomorrow.  I know that God is in control of this story and that there is never a moment that Hudson is out of the reach of his father.  But times like this is when I believe Christians are called to join together as an army and fight together in prayer.  To enter the throne room on behalf of this 7 month old child and ask our father to work mightly.  My heart has hurt for 7+ months watching one of my best friends walk this journey.  And so for those of you who do read this blog I am asking you to pray.  Pray for my friend and for her son!  

If you want to read more about Hudson visit The "Hudson's Heart" Facebok page. 
And if you feel led to give towards Hudson's medical expenses you can go here

"The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are his everlasting arms."
Deuteronomy 33:27

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn   if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me,  your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me  and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you;    the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. For you created my inmost being;    you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful,   I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you  when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
Psalm 139: 7-16

Friday, February 5, 2016

Living for Eternity

My great uncle went to be with Jesus today.  Since both of my grandfather's passed away before I was born he was the only grandfather type figure i've had in my life.  As my dad was keeping me updated on his final breaths I couldn't help but think a lot about what it would be like to be welcomed in to the arms of Jesus.  My great uncle was 94 years old, knew Jesus as his savior, and lived a very full life.  He went home peacefully  knowing where he was going.  

So what was it like for him?  What it is like to go home?  I was talking to a friend this week who is going through immense suffering.  As I listened to her wrestle with the pain she and her family are walking through I began to question what we all question in suffering, "Why God?"  Why does she have to walk through this? Why are you not answering prayers the way we want them to be answered?  Why is the pain getting worse?  This world can feel so incredibly cruel sometimes and in those moments it can feel like the brokenness that we live in will never go away.  But that's where hope comes into play.  The hope that we have in Jesus that one day it will end.  One day the sorrows and pains will be no more.  

I know I don't long for Heaven like I should.  I don't think about it enough, and I don't live my life often enough like this is not my home.  I often live in fear and anxiety of what tomorrow is going to bring, I don't enjoy watching the news because I want to hide from all that is going on around the world.  Every time I turn around someone else is getting cancer or I'm hearing a tragic story that has happened in someones life.  It can at times completely overwhelm me.   I know I can't hide.  I know I can't pretend like it's not happening, and most importantly I know I can't question God.  But I can pray, I can trust God, I can believe that He really is in control and that nothing is happening out of his plan, and I can live in the hope of eternity.  I think about the life of the saints in the Bible.  There is a reason  that Hebrews 12 says to fix our eyes on Jesus as we run the race.  All throughout the Bible we are reminded to set our mind on eternal things and to not lose heart.  I think about what the disciples went through for Jesus.  The suffering that so many have and are experiencing.  I think about the ones who are being persecuted for their faith.  On earth the darkness can overwhelm, but ultimately there is hope.  And my uncle got to experience the result of that Hope today.  If Jesus is your savior there is a promise  it.will.end.  And eternity will be better than we could ever imagine.  

As I think about running the race in this life I want to run with my eyes on Jesus savoring Him above anything else in this world.  I want to live like this world is not my home. I want to be a light in darkness.  To encourage others as they walk through suffering to look up and see God's got this.  He really does even if it doesn't seem like it.  

One of my favorite passages in the Bible is Revelation 7:15-17

“they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.  Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat down on them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd. ‘he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.

One day there will be no more hunger, no more thirst, and every tear will be wiped away from every eye.  My uncle is experiencing that today.  After a long life of joys and sorrows he is experiencing the radiance of Glory on his face.  When I think about that it makes me want to run with perseverance and not let my hope waiver. 

The words of "10000 Reasons" came to mind several times this week.  I want to be able to sing these words no matter what comes my way or when my time to go to Heaven is.  I know that worshipping the Holy name of Jesus is worth it.  It may not always seem like it but deep down I know that it is.  So I pray that if you are reading this that you would be challenged to live for the one who will wipe away your tears one day and will fulfill every promise that He has ever spoken!  There is so much hope if you believe in Jesus Christ and one day it will all be worth it.  

"And on that day when my strength is failing. The end draws near and my time has come Still my soul will sing Your praise unending Ten thousand years and then forevermore. 

Bless the Lord, O my soul O my soul. Worship His holy name Sing like never before O my soul I'll worship Your holy name"