Sunday, June 16, 2013

Lucky (or Blessed) Number 7.

What a special day it is today! I get to celebrate two of the greatest men in my life both on the same day.  Firstly, I want to wish a Happy Father's Day to my incredible dad! I'm terribly sad and heartbroken that I can't be in Wilmington to celebrate with him this year, but as I've learned through years of long distance relationship-ing, love travels across distance, and it's no different when it comes to family.  I'm excited for him to open his gifts when he has dinner with my siblings and hope he knows how loved and appreciated he is! Here's a picture of my dad and me when I was a baby in the kitchen of our New York home.  I still find it to be such a fun picture

Today is special for another reason, as well.  I find it so fitting that this day falls as it does this year.  June 16th also marks 7 years of dating for Scott and me.   7 years ago today, sitting on my couch around 1AM at my childhood home on Wingpointe Place, Scott made my 16 year-old self swoon (not actually faint) as he casually said, "I know this is kind of late, but will you go out with me?"  Never could my 16 year-old self have imagined what a journey would result from answering "yes" to that question, but I'm so glad she did.

Our journey has not been an easy one, nor has it been anything like the romance you see in movies.  It's been filled with much uncertainty and heartache.  I've cried tears I can't even begin to count over the distance and through tough times when I've felt so alone.  I've sat alone in airports or in my car after having to say goodbye and let silent tears fall while I prayed for strength to overcome the distance and to learn to love him from afar.  I've had many moments of frustration through seemingly important arguments that I later find to be quite irrelevant and unimportant, and I've had moments of exasperation when we couldn't find a way to see eye to eye on something.

But more than that, looking past the heartache, I've been immensely joy-filled.  I've cried tears of joy and laughed until I cried from funny things he's said or done.  I've grown into a woman who understands so much about the Lord's grace because of the grace that I am shown daily in my relationship with Scott.  I've experienced beauty beyond measure in his countenance, faith, and sacrificial nature.  I've found one of the greatest loves of my soul through him (running) and have had the joy of running alongside him whenever we can find moments to be in the same place at the same time.  I've had 2AM phone conversations that completely push me beyond the walls I've built up in my mind and cause me to find enlightenment or new understanding of Biblical truths or things of this earth. I've known unconditional love and what it is to be valued and cherished by someone so lovely, and I've learned to be selfless in my own giving and loving.

If you followed my old blog, you may have seen my post last year on our anniversary about our dating history.  To save myself from being repetitive, I'll include the link here.  We've shared memories that I hold dear to my heart and others that I'm always so happy to share with others, and I've experienced sweet tastes of the Lord's love for me through how Scott has loved me over the years.  I haven't always been the most lovable person, and I know that there are times when I (intentionally or not) have made it difficult to love me.  But he has.  And 7 years later, he's still standing next to me holding my hand, opening doors for me and surprising me with thoughtfulness, all more than I could ever have asked for.

And in less than a year, I will walk down an aisle in a big white dress to take his hand in marriage and become his wife and lifelong partner.  One can imagine that in the course of 7 years, the topic of marriage does come up once or twice.  In fact (and I hope he is ok with me sharing this-- especially because he doesn't exactly remember this conversation I am about to disclose), in September of 2006, about three months after we had started dating, the two of us sat on a bench at Fort Caswell chatting beneath a starlit sky talking about how crazy it was that we were actually dating (and at this point, had just started with the long distance portion, which would come to fill the majority of our dating relationship).  And while nervously holding hands (it was all still kind of new at this point), he told me that he could see himself marrying me one day and that he hoped we could make things work.  Maybe not as romantic of a tale as the movies portray, your "I knew when I met her that she was my wife," but at 16, it was enough for my young heart to hold onto and hope for.

Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that we could withstand the time and the distance.  I remember often saying to one another that we wished we had met later in life, for if we had, we would have saved ourselves a lot of heartache and turmoil (or so we thought).  But we didn't meet later in life. We met during a time that was a major growing season for us both.  I often tell Scott that I find it funny that we are still together, because we are SUCH different people now than we were at 16 and 18 (he's two years older than me).  But the thing is, though we've grown, we have grown together and have more than tolerated one another's changes; I actually think it's been quite fun to watch Scott grow into the man he is today.  I think he might say the same about me, though he probably wishes he could have missed out on some of my tears and mood swings.  Our relationship is by no means typical, and we could have easily broken down and quit at many points along the way.  But God's plan for us has been so incredible despite the difficulty, and I can't picture going through this any other way.  The plans God makes for us are often so much more beautiful than anything we could have ever imagined for ourselves.

Our journey has been one with many road blocks, detours, winding roads, and uncharted paths that we've had to maneuver through.  But I'm so thankful that God blessed me with this man and with this journey.  It's been a journey of faith to be certain, filled with more love and joy than I ever could have anticipated.  And as we walk into this new phase together, I'm excited to hold the same hand that I've held since my 16-year-old self took a leap of faith in saying yes to something so uncertain.  I know we will face as much uncertainty (and possibly more so) in our marriage as we have in dating, but that's part of the growing.  The uncertainty teaches us to trust God and His plan for our lives together and allows us to be molded into beings for His kingdom and His glory.

So dearest Scott, my sweet husband-to-be, I hope you find this as you're scrolling through Facebook tomorrow and that it brings a smile to your face to know that I'm loving you from 650 miles away, with a sparkly reminder on my left hand of the promise you have made to me and the hope of the covenant we are about to enter into.  You're the most wonderful friend I have ever known and I can't wait to see you in person in a few short weeks.  Thanks for your patience, grace, and love for the past 7 years.  I'm celebrating June 16th for the last time with you this year and will soon have a new anniversary to share, but June will always hold a soft place in the deepest chambers of my heart for you.  Here's to many more years learning from one another and loving each other & those around us.

It may not be Hollywood love or what Nicholas Sparks writes about, and it may seem like a long and broken road.  But it's a love that has been raw and pure, and that has grown from a tiny baby nothing into a big giant something from many years of planting, sowing, watering, tilling, sweating, and finally, harvesting.  It's nothing that I ever imagined yet more than I ever could have hoped for.  And in 10 short months, it'll all change and start over again.  A different field this time.  We'll put the dating one to rest and turn our efforts towards the one where marriage grows.  I'll grab the seed if you'll get the pitchfork, and I'll meet you in the field next spring.

Grace & peace, dear friends.  And thank you for all of your support along this journey.  It's more appreciated than you'll ever know.  

Friday, June 7, 2013

I Want Crazy

My country-loving fans out there probably know the song "I Want Crazy" by Hunter Hayes... if you're not familiar with it, here's the YouTube video link for it.  I love this song.  (Side note: prepare yourself for a lot of references to quotes in this post. Some may seem cliche, but they are ones that are on my mind as I go through this whole process of uncertainty this year).
But I love it for some odd reasons.  I have a weird habit of taking secular music, quotes, movie lines, etc. and finding the Biblical truth in them.  This one might be a stretch, but in my head it makes sense.  There's a lot of lyrics in this song that I really like, mainly because he's talking about a long distance relationship which I can MORE than understand.  But I like the main lyric, "I don't want easy, I want crazy."  Now, I doubt Hunter Hayes means it in the way I interpret it, but maybe I'm wrong.

I was talking to a sweet friend yesterday about how we're both on the brink of making big decisions that will affect us and those around us both in the immediate future and that will likely affect us long-term as well.  Though we are in completely different situations, the principles of the decisions we are making are very similar. We both see a "safe" path as one of our options.  We are both set with a choice that doesn't take much thinking or risk taking, maybe there's some slight risk involved, but mostly, it's safe and it makes sense to choose that path.  And then there's this other choice available to us that's more uncertain.  There's big gambling involved (not the Vegas kind), a possibility of failure, and a heck of a lot of faith.

Our friends, families, and society in general all tell us to choose the safe route, or what I'm equating to Hunter Hayes' "easy" in the song.  But here's my issue about easy.  It leaves no room to trust God and what He can do in my life.  If my life is planned out for me in such a perfect way, and everything works out just so with no real problems or stress, when do I learn to trust God? I'm ever thankful and grateful to Him for all blessings, but the times that I've come to know God and His heart most have not been times when I'm floating on a cloud with no worries in the world.  It's been the times when I've felt I am in the deepest pits of despair and when I have nothing else to lean on but Him.  I'm not saying I'm necessarily walking into such a situation or intentionally choosing a path like that, but what I'm saying is that I'm more ok with the option that leaves room for that than I am with the "easy" or safe path.  My sweet friend and I both had similar opinions about this regarding our respective situations, and in the moment that we were discussing this all, I was so thankful that God placed someone else in my life going through a very similar struggle at this time.  When you're going through difficult times, you never understand why you're going through them or what you've done to deserve that, but then you see how God uses those times for His glory and it's incredible.  I know that it's no coincidence that her and I are both going through this together.  I am leaving out her name for her privacy here, but I know when she reads this she'll know that it's her that I'm referring to.  Her wisdom and faith in Jesus and His perfect plan for her life is so encouraging to me.

The next year of my life is going to be crazy.  Hunter Hayes' crazy and my definition of crazy.  But I walk with God through every decision I make, and I will continue to seek His wise counsel in all that I do.  I remember when I was younger, my pastor talked one Sunday about how it's quite often that followers of Jesus will make decisions or do things that don't make sense to the rest of the world.  That's stayed with me over the years, and when I make a decision that seems silly to others or going against the grain, I turn down the volume of what everyone else is saying and turn up the volume on what Jesus is telling me through His Word and His Spirit.

Scott has a favorite quote that I once found in the version of a greeting card and sent to him... and it's a quote that many will be quite familiar with.  It's from Emerson, and it's pretty basic.

"Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. "

Pretty cliche since it's quoted all the time now, but this secular quote also very much applies to my circumstances and that of my dear friend.  Though there is a set path for us to travel along with all of the comforts and safety we have always known, we're drawn to where the path is uncertain and in some ways, has not been traveled before.  Now, MY favorite poem by Robert Frost also comes to mind when I think about our situations.  This is another highly quoted poem, but it's one I've referred to over the years as I've made decisions about leaving home during high school, choosing nursing school over medical school, dating long distance for what seems an eternity, etc.  It's a good one.  It's called "The Road Not Taken."

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay, 
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Every time I have taken the road less traveled in my life, it's been incredibly challenging yet full of IMMENSE blessing.  Going to NCSSM is probably the greatest illustration of this.  I remember the day my family moved me in, helped me unpack, got me settled into my first dorm room.  It was all so exciting, until the moment that we had to say goodbye.  All of the sudden, it hit me that everything was changing.  Home would never be the same again, my relationships with my family would change so much, as would those with my friends.  I remember my mom, sister, and I all crying as I said goodbye to them.  But what great blessing came from my time at NCSSM.  I still consider it one of the most difficult experiences I've ever been through in my life, but I learned so much about myself while there and so much about life and love.  I learned how to live away from home, how to not depend on other people to take care of me.  I found new interests I had through classes that would have never been available to me at my old high school.  I learned how to love someone from a distance (or many someones: my family, my friends, and Scott).  And I met some of my best friends there who are now supporting me through other tough decisions and circumstances in my life.  I often regret missing out on home life with my family and being part of my siblings' lives in a more apparent way, but I loved my family across the distance and came home as much as I could to be with them.  Love really does reach across distance, and I know it will continue to do so in the future.  

And as my mom said to me the other night, with no sugar coating over the words (come on, she's a true Yankee.. do Yankees ever sugar coat anything?), I'm an adult now making adult decisions, and I will deal with the adult consequences.  Though, I will not deal with them alone.  I will cling to Jesus and His truth, and I will know that each step I take may seem "crazy," but it's never a mistake if I trust the Lord with those steps. 

"Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you." -Psalm 9:10

Pray for me to remember these things and pray for my friend as well.  
Grace & peace, sweet friends. And bring on the crazy.