Sunday, February 14, 2010

15 Valentine's Days with My Sweetie!

Justin and I met in early fall 1994 (when we were 16 yrs old). One day, he walked down the hallway of our high school wearing a shirt that showed off the fact that he worked out.  He caught my attention.  A few days later, he actually talked to me and then a few weeks later, we started dating....

That's how our story starts.  There were fights and break-ups. There were other people.  There were make-ups and getting back together.  There were hoops to jump through and major obstacles to overcome (I was in foster care, as a teen, which forced our relationship to be different, to say the least). 

Thankfully, our story was already written and God knew where it would lead...

Justin proposed to me on August 2, 1997.  He was in Colorado, with his mother, and had been trying to get a hold of me by phone for several days.  You see, we were not technically together, at this time.  It had been a rough year while Justin was dating as many other girls from high school as he could and I was starting college and working (I graduated in 1996 and he still had a year of high school to go).  During July, I had decided that I was done being hurt and I left the state for a while.  In fact, I had gone to Colorado to a church camp with my bestie and her new husband. I was searching for answers and guidance.  I was finished with the back and forth of it all.  During worship services on Wednesday, I tearfully prayed and asked God for a clear sign about my relationship with Justin.

Upon returning from camp, I received several messages that Justin had been trying to get in touch with me.  On Saturday night, he called my best friend's mother-in-laws house and found me! I still don't even know how he got that phone number, but he did.  He was diligent enough in his pursuit to keep looking, every day and by calling everyone of our friends to try to find a way to reach me.  Talk about persistance! He was apparently a man on a mission.

When I answered the call, these are the words I heard: "Serena, it's a long story but I love you and I wanna marry you." 

There was no bended knee. There was no candlelight or flowers, no candy, no big message on a jumbrotron or a song dedication on the radio.  There was no romantic setting in a special "moment".  There was just the phone call and the proclamation that he wanted to marry me.  I was stunned!  We weren't even "together" when he proposed!  WHAT?!?!?! After all he'd just put me through for months, now this...I don't know.

I spent the next several hours thinking and praying and crying.  We spoke several times on the phone, during some quite lengthly long-distance phone calls.  He made promises to never hurt me and to never leave me.  He made promises to always try to make me happy and to make our life together, worth it.  Justin promised to love me forever and I realized God was giving me just what I'd prayed for - a very clear sign! How much more clear could a proposal be? (He'd even talked to his mom about his desire to ask and gotten her support!) 

So, here we were - engaged at 19 years old.

We were both excited about our lives together and all that would come our way and although we each had some things to rectify and prove to one another, wedding preparations began.  We spent that fall semester on opposite ends of the state at college, but he came to see me nearly every weekend.  He would drive for hours in the middle of the night just to spend some time with me and our phone bills were astronomical!  We both moved home at semester break, so we could be together.

We were married on October 10, 1998.  (This year, our anniversary will be 10-10-10 and that's kinda cool.)

In the past 11 years and 4 months of marriage. Justin and I have experienced great highs and bad lows.  We've grown a very special family with four great kids.  We've grown closer to one another and to God. We're happy.  He is fulfilling his promise to me and our life together is totally worth it!  I couldn't ask for a better husband to me.  He works very hard for our family. He protects our family.  He makes our family his number 1 priority.  He loves me more today than when we were married and he loves our children.  Even when we have "intense fellowships", I don't have to worry about his committment for faithfulness to me and our family. Justin is exactly the husband that God knew I would need. He is my Valentine, every day of the year. 

Today, as we celebrate our 15th Valentine's Day together, in no big, special way with no grandiose displays of our feelings for one another, I celebrate the promises that we've made to one another; the obstacles and valleys we've overcome; the committment we have to forever; and our beautiful, funny, loving chidlren..We love each other more every day, and that's really what makes our love special.  I'm thankful God answered my prayer that Wednesday and I'm thankful that He brought Justin and I together! 

Happy Valentine's Day!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Forever. For Real.

My husband and I met in high school, when we were about 15 years old.  We dated for 2 years through high school.  When I graduated, leaving Justin to finish his senior year, things became rough and our relationship was tested.  In the end, we decided we really belonged together and Justin proposed to me in August 1997.  That's a funny story, I'll save for another day.  Three weeks later, we both went away to college on separate ends of our state, but managed to see one another nearly every weekend.  Deciding that we couldn't stand to only see one another on weekends, we both moved home at semester and started to plan our wedding.  We were married on October 10, 1998, when we were both 20 years old.

I wish that I could say we've been blissfully happy ever since, but that would be a lie.  We've had major ups and major downs.  We've experienced times of great joy and times of despair. We've been madly in love with one another, and we've stayed together because we "needed to".  We've talked about growing old together, and we briefly visited the idea of growing apart.  Through it all, we've stuck it out and are currently experiencing one of the best times in our marriage!!!!  We've remained committed to the vows we took and we've remained committed to one another.

This past weekend, Justin and I were able to get away, on a little trip to Oklahoma City, without our kids.  It was really great to spend some time without the yelling and fighting from the kids, the constant answering of questions, the echoes of "Mom" and "Dad" coming from four different directions and to just be together. We held hands, we cuddled, we talked, we laughed.  We were "us".

A major part of our trip was attending the "Forever. For Real. marriage seminar".  The day included opportunities to think about how we communicate with one another, the expectations we brought into our marriage and how those expectations have changed, the way we love one another.  It was a really great day and a great workshop for us to do together. We're looking forward to working through the rest of the workbook together, in the coming weeks, and applying all that we took away.  When we arrived at the seminar, Justin and I both believed we have a "good marriage" and we left the seminar both believing we can continue to have a "great marriage"!!!!

Another really cool part of that experience was the chance to meet several young, engaged couples.  I think Justin and I were the oldest couple at our table of 6 couples (and we're NOT OLD!!!).  We'd also been together for 15 years and married for over 11 years. The only other married couple at the table had been married for 1 year, 9 months (awwww, the sweet bliss of newlyweds!).  The remaining 4 couples were all getting married this year. One of these couples are both serving in the US Air Force and are getting married on February 9!  He will be deploying in June, she will deploy in January (just as he returns).  Another couple has a 3 year old child.  Another one is trying to build a life as he is a full-time student.  The final couple is 19 years old and will married in May; they're both college students.  I was able to look at all of these couples and see something special and sweet about each of them.

I believe that God put us at the table for a reason.  We were able to share our story, a little bit, with these couples. We warned them about how expectations will change, how children effect a marriage, how important communication about all sorts of topics will be, to not be angry or scared when the married sex life doesn't end up being exactly what you imagine, to talk openly and honestly about money and seek out teachers and mentors in this area, the importance of a strong support system, and how there are seasons in a marriage.  Justin and I had a chance to be an example to these couples, of striving through hard times and being committed to making it work.  That's a big blessing and I'm thankful God granted us that opportunity.

I pray that Justin and I will continue to grow our marriage in the Lord.  I pray that He will continue to make our love stronger and more intense every day.  I pray that He will bless our family with a long life together!  I pray the our children see God's impact on our life and our marriage. I pray that we can be a good example to our children of a godly marriage and family!

I pray for the younger couples at our table. I pray they will continue to invest in their relationships, as they did on Saturday.  I pray that they will communicate and always be honest with one another. I pray they will always respect one another and I pray they will have strong support systems.  I pray they will invite God to be a part of their marriage and the families they will create together (with or without children). I pray they will stay committed to their vows and I pray that their love for one another will only grow deeper over time!

As for me, I do love my Sweetie! He's a great guy and I feel truly blessed to have found him so early in my life!!!!  Here's a picture of us at dinner after the seminar at Toby Keith's I Love This Bar & Grill.

Friday, February 5, 2010

2010 Update - So far

So, it's 36 days into the New Year and my 5 goals.  I was thinking it's about time for an update...

This morning, I'm a little frustrated. I'm back up the 6 lbs I was down a few weeks ago.  It has to be the pop!  I really NEED to give it up, but it has such a hold on me and apparently, the Diet Dr. Pepper is just as bad for me as regular Pepsi. I'm disappointed in that fact, as I have a rather intense love of the soda.  Ugh. I'm not eating as well as I should, however well-intentioned I am, and I've yet to join the local YMCA (again).  However, I read everyday about my friends who are working out and I'm inspired by their enthusiasm for it.  I've failed miserably at the Body for Life thing I signed up for and I'm overwhelmingly frustrated by it all.  I look in the mirror and try to remind myself that my husband loves me any way I look - but I wish I was happier with my physical appearance.

I also haven't been great about spending the 20 designated minutes with God that I told myself I would commit.  Why? I don't know. I have no excuse, really.  I have still allowed myself to waste away countless minutes on facebook but I haven't given God what He deserves from me.  I must do better!  My Savior deserves to have me visit with Him every day.  He has so many great things to say to me.  I will do better!

I AM doing better with the kids. I'm turning facebook and the TV off in the evening, when they're home.  Its seems we spend so much time in the car, for various reasons, that we all get frustrated and tired of being cramped together, but we're trying to make it work. (For those of you who may not know - we were in a car accident on 1-10-10 and our Suburban was "totaled", according to insurance.  For the mean time, we are driving my in-laws 6 passenger car and reminding ourselves to be content and grateful.  We look a little like the clown car at the circus piling in and out of that thing!)  The kids are getting tired of getting up at 5:30 a.m. to take Daddy to work, but overall, they're doing great!  I'm being more intentional about giving them all affection everyday and focusing less and less on the mess.

I am also doing better with my husband. I'm being more intentional about making time for him and trying to show him how much he means to me everyday.  We had so many crazy things happen in January that we didn't really get a date night, but we are going away this weekend for a Valentine's Day celebration.  We're dedicating some time to our marriage and attending the Forever.For Real. Marriage Seminar in Oklahoma City, OK.  We are planning to enjoy a romantic dinner and a cold-weather walk around the river-walk in Bricktown.  It should be a great weekend for us to just be, us!

I've also been more intentional about our budget and have been more watchful of when I NEED to go to the store vs. when I just feel like I have nothing to cook.   I still need to organize the coupons that are piling up on our counter and have made that a goal for next week.

Overall, I feel like I'm doing "better" in 3 out of my 5 goals for the year.  Progress is still a focus and I'm not allowing myself to feel guilty over the stumbling blocks. Instead, I just need to re-focus and renew my will to succeed at all of my goals.  That's all I can do.

Hebrews 12:1

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.