Adventures with My Best Friend

One of the things Eric and I have had in common throughout our marriage is our love for travel and exploration. We have often said we would rather have fewer “things” in exchange for the memories and experiences we share in traveling.

This was true when we first got married, and is even more true now that we have two children. I really like my husband and crave all the one on one time I can get with him! Our travels these days take quite a bit more planning, but the effort is always worth it.

Our very first trip together was for our honeymoon. We went to Jackson Hole, Wyoming and spent our week hiking, riding horses, and exploring Yellowstone National Park. This is one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen!

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Faithful companions visiting Old Faithful.

For our one year anniversary, we took an extremely last minute trip to Canada. We flew into Main and then drove over the border into Quebec. It was quite the surprise when we discovered French was the official language! Our final destinations were Peggy’s Cove and Prince Edward Island (Anne of Green Gables anyone?). Simply stunning!

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On the farm that inspired Anne of Green Gables in Cavendish, Prince Edward Island.

The following year we went to Colorado. Eric had a worship conference in Colorado Springs, so we piggy-backed on that and headed to Breckenridge. While in the area, we drove up Pike’s Peak (terrifying!) and saw the magnificent Red Rocks.

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All dressed up for a fancy fondue dinner in Breckinridge, Colorado.

Arizona was the first place we traveled that was warm. We got some amazing views of the Grand Canyon and were blown away by a huge meteor crater. If any of you decide to visit, make sure to wear closed toed shoes. They won’t let you hike the rim of the crater without them! I speak from experience here.

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The Grand Canyon. Breathtaking!

Our fifth anniversary took us to Europe with our friends Seth & Meredith. We spent 10 days exploring Rome and Athens. So many wonderful memories! Unbeknownst to us, there were riots occurring in Greece while we were there. We accidentally ended up right in the middle of one! While it was disappointing we couldn’t explore all the locations we wanted in Athens, it was certainly memorable to be there in an important moment of their history.

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Visiting the Roman Coliseum with friends.

Then came children. Traveling has looked a bit different since then! We have enjoyed our family trips to Williamsburg and Disney World immensely, but there is always something special about getting a chance to be alone together.

When our second child was a little over a year old, I texted Eric saying how I longed to go to an all-inclusive resort in the middle of nowhere and do nothing. It’s a good thing I married the man I did, because we worked together to find a way to make it happen! We got a surprise destination deal on cheapcaribbean.com and found ourselves in Punta Cana of the Dominican Republic. This trip was huge for us. It’s easy to take your spouse for granted amidst the responsibilities of raising a family, and this vacation helped us make each other a priority. We have since vowed to make sure we always find a way to go somewhere just the two of us.

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Waiting for dinner in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

The very next summer we made it happen again. This time in Riviera Maya of Mexico. Beautiful beaches, gigantic swimming pool, no responsibilities, uninterrupted conversation, and fun with my hubby. What’s not to love?

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With my handsome hubby exploring Riviera Maya, Mexico.

Last April we had a blast at the ARC Conference with some of the Daystar staff. Since we were already kid free, we decided to take advantage of the situation and spent a couple of days in Savannah, Georgia. This city is full of history and delicious food!

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Our table was in the basement/cellar of this building. Such a neat experience!

Just last week we went on our first cruise together. You guys, I cannot tell you what this does for our relationship. We love our children and we love being in the ministry, but getting away, just the two of us, revives us for the next leg of our journey. We have seen how these trips strengthen our relationship and believe it is essential to make the nurturing of our marriage a priority.

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Ready to embark on our cruise! We visited Cozumel, Belize, Roatan, and Grand Cayman.

We are already dreaming of our next trip. England perhaps? Where do you hope to travel in the future? If traveling isn’t your thing, how do you and your spouse find ways to connect and make each other a priority?

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Our Unordinary Wedding

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Our Wedding Day! Check out the “rustic” metal in the background. We were ahead of our time.

Last year I wrote our love story in honor of our anniversary. I never realized how unorthodox our relationship was until I started getting feedback from that post. How does one follow up an unordinary courtship? With an unordinary wedding of course.

He proposed March 8th. We set the wedding date for June 17th. That’s three months later in case anyone is counting.

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Our first picture after getting engaged! It was two days later and we got to see both of our families at Eric’s driving experience.

I was in the throes of student teaching when we first became engaged, and this consumed my life so much to the point that I was seriously doubting whether I was cut out to be a teacher. I was thrilled to be getting married that summer, but the demands of finishing my education prevented me from spending too many hours surfing the web for wedding information. Praise the Lord Pinterest didn’t exist yet.

I was clueless when it came to weddings. Clueless. I had only attended a handful of them, and I was the first in my group of friends to be getting married. I really had no idea how it all worked. All I knew was that I needed a white dress, a pastor, and my intended. That pretty much felt like enough to me. Eric actually planned the majority of the ceremony details.

So, what were the details?

Bridesmaid. Yes, that’s singular for a reason. I wanted my sister to be my one and only bridesmaid because I knew my sister was the one and only person guaranteed to always be in my life. I didn’t want to pick and choose between friends, and I didn’t want to worry about finding a dress that everyone would be happy with. I let my sister pick whatever she wanted to wear because I wanted her to feel pretty too. Her selection then determined my colors. They would be blue and brown.

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My favorite picture of me and my siblings! Taken right before the service began.

Flowers. Okay, blue and brown. What flowers go with this? My soon-to-be Mother-in-Love mentioned blue hydrangeas, so I went with it. When I met with my florist, he told me all the woes of working with hydrangeas for weddings, and then insisted I have them because it was my wedding and that was what I wanted. I really didn’t care. He was right though, as my sister’s bouquet had to be replaced with grocery store hydrangeas minutes before the ceremony began.

The Dress. I wanted something simple and found a few styles I liked at David’s Bridal. At the end of trying on these dresses my mom says, “I could make something like that.” And so she did. My mom worked tirelessly to get the dress just right and leave me with a precious memory. The outcome was almost identical to what I had tried on in store!

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Our families prayed for us as we started off the ceremony.

Invitations. Formal invitations were sent to relatives and a few family friends. The rest of our guests were invited by email invitations and an open Facebook event. I am not kidding. We wanted everyone we knew to celebrate with us and to have the chance to hear about the goodness of God.

Food. How do you feed an unknown number of people? Easy. One of our friends bought cases of soft drinks as our wedding present. That was one of the most practical gifts anyone gave us. We decided to have a cookout for our guests and purchased boxes upon boxes of hamburgers and hotdogs from Costco. Sadly, an entire freezer worth of hamburgers was forgotten, so I’m not sure everyone had a chance to eat. We did get to return the extras though! Our cake was a gift to us from a friend of Eric’s parents, and a bounce house was set up for kiddos to enjoy.

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People were gathered everywhere! We may have had close to 500. Here they are gathering for food, with a bit of our fancy trailer and bounce house in the background.

Ceremony. To be held on a Sunday during a church service. Yes, it was our wedding day, but we wanted God to be the focus of it. Not us. We had praise and worship, and the new sermon series called “Once Upon a Time” was kicking off with Adam and Eve. Perfect set up for a wedding. We also decided to include a true love waits ceremony for those in the student ministry wanting to make a commitment to save sexual intimacy for marriage. This was especially precious to me as I was going to present Eric with my own purity ring during the vow exchange.

Location. There was going to be too many people for our church building, so we decided to hold everything outside on the lawn. Eric painted the big trailer outside white to help with the ambiance. It had previously been decorated with “LUAU” for a youth event. We rented folding chairs and a stage for the musicians. Our small group was kind enough to help set up that morning, and I later learned they had to clean silly string off most of those rented chairs.

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Our first act as husband and wife was to praise Jesus!
The Mishaps. I’m pretty sure every wedding has a few of these. In addition to my sister’s flowers dying and doing a quick fix, there were a few other experiences that didn’t quite go as planned. It was a high of 97 degrees that day, causing one of our guests to faint. We did a first look that I had hoped to be private, but because we were outside, a crowd of people ended up joining us. The cops were called because our music was too loud. Oh, and we probably should have set the date for something other than Father’s Day. (Sorry, Daddy!)

I really, truly, loved our wedding. I felt like we had the opportunity to bring glory to God and honor others. Neither one of us had much money saved, and our families certainly were not rich by any means. We chose to spend very little so we could start off our marriage focusing on our relationship without needing to pay off debt. Altogether, including all the things, no matter who was paying, the cost was under $5000. This was a tremendous blessing to the start of our  marriage.

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Only a few nights prior to our wedding, we decided to do a swing dance. I had no idea what I was doing, but it was fun! A small portion of our cake table is in the background.

Looking back, I probably would have done it the same way all over again. Looking forward, I love that we get to celebrate our anniversary in new ways. We are hoping to do a very small vow renewal for our 10th anniversary next year. My wedding day, while certainly a significant moment in my life, wasn’t the biggest moment for our marriage.

The biggest moment, in any marriage, is really the little moments day-to-day as we love and respect our spouse. It’s a life-long journey with a success rate not determined by a flawless wedding day. I am so thankful to have started off our marriage the way we did, and I hope to continue in the same mindset of honoring God and others for the rest of our lives.

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Bubbles!

30 Days of Thankfulness: My Hubby

I’m going to try not to get too sappy here, so let me start off with my purpose.

My purpose in these 30 Days of Thankfulness posts is to build people up. It’s to say, “Hey, I really like this about you and appreciate you.” Because, I know it’s nice to hear these things from time to time. And because, after I started this process, I happened to read Jude 1:20: “But you, dear friends, must build each other up in your most holy faith…”

So, you see, I’m not trying to say my life is perfect. I’m not trying to say my life is better than yours, or that my husband is better than yours, or that if you don’t have a husband there is no hope to find one as amazing as mine. The purpose of this post is to focus on the things I love about my husband so that I can encourage and honor him.

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All pictures in this post are by Alexa’s Photography. This one was taken two years into our marriage and hangs over the mantel in our living room.

That being said, without further ado…

I have the best husband in the world. Early in our marriage, Eric would tell me, “I am going to be a better husband than any other guy can be.” He has struck true to his word. Here are just a few of the areas that I love about my husband.

Helping Me Stay Sane

I find that Eric often sees my need without ever having to say a word. He knows that I can get stressed out about my “to-do list” when people come over to our home, so he helps me with it. Sometimes he takes the girls outside to play, other times he pulls out the vacuum and cleans the floors. He always helps to put things away and gets the kitchen counters free of random papers. It would take me two days to do the things he can do in 30 minutes. It’s nice to have the help.

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Getting ready to welcome our first baby!

He also recognizes that being a stay-at-home mom can be a tough job mentally. Just this past weekend, he told our girls it was time to get dressed so they could have a fun day with Daddy. He then told me that I had the entire day to do whatever I wanted. I spent the day accomplishing all the things that are hard to do with little ones holding onto your legs. I love my girls, but having a break from constantly being needed helps me to stay sane.

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This guy is such a good Daddy.

His Love for Jesus

Eric doesn’t do “church stuff” because that’s his job. He does it because that is his passion. He daily sets his alarm clock so that he can get up before anyone else in our house. He spends this time of quiet with the Lord. He studies the Bible and prays as he connects with God. He prefers the silence, so he gets up early in order to have quality time.

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He loves his family quite a bit too.

He talks about his relationship with God with myself and the girls. He is always striving to become more and more like Christ and is careful how he spends his free time. More often than not, in the evenings, he will be reading books on faith and leadership. He is a good man with a heart of gold.

Giver of Gifts

I’m really, terribly horrible at gift-giving. I can occasionally find just the right thing, but it’s not consistent. Eric, on the other hand, is amazing at gift-giving. He really enjoys it too. His favorite thing is teasing me about the gift before he ever gives it to me. More often than not, he will have one of my friends text me and say something like, “Wow, I love the gift Eric is giving you for your birthday! It’s so thoughtful!”

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2nd baby on the way!

Sometimes, he is so excited he literally cannot wait to give it to me. Last year, he was so pumped about the deal he scored for my Kitchenmaid stand mixer, that he gave it to me as soon as he bought it. (He even scored a wad of Kohl’s cash, which we proceeded to use to buy our girls’ Christmas gifts!) It makes me feel loved to know that he wants to spend money on me that I would never spend on myself.

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And then there were two.

His Leadership

I met Eric when he was leading worship. Over time, I was impressed with how he lead his team members. When we were dating, he lead the way in our relationship in an effort to protect our hearts. Currently, I get to watch him lead our girls as they figure out life and what it means to love each other. He is my spiritual leader and I look up to him more than anyone else.

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I love this little family.

One of my favorite ways to observe Eric is when he is counseling; on or off the clock. We’ve had couples over to our house for premarital counseling, as well as friends from time to time who just wanted to talk about something. Eric is phenomenal at leading these discussions. He always knows just the right thing to say. He is able to set the stage for a loving environment, and rarely tells people exactly what they need to do. He merely guides them as they figure it out. I wish I could explain this better, but he is so good at what he does!

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We are so incredibly blessed!

In Conclusion…

Eric, I love you with all my heart. I’m not always good at expressing this to you, but it’s true. I love watching you figure out how to let God rule your life. I respect you in every way. I can’t wait to see all the ways God will use you to bring glory to His Name, because I know He has some amazing things in store for you. Thank you for being the best husband in the world.

Waiting for our Groom

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All photos in this post by Alexa’s Photography.

I love weddings. They are such a beautiful picture of the covenant we have in Christ. They are a joyful time of celebration as two people dedicate the rest of their lives to serving one another. I love how beautiful the bride is as she presents herself to her groom. I love how overcome by emotion the groom always is as he sees his bride for the first time. I love the thought, the detail, the community, and yes, even the cake, that are present at weddings.

As a pastor’s wife, I get invited to a lot of weddings. This year, by the end of October, I will have attended 7 weddings. 3 of those my husband will have officiated, and for 1 of them my 3 year old daughter was a flower girl. For 2 of those weddings, my husband and I invited the couple over for a series of dinners so we could discuss the pre-marriage curriculum our church offers.

I think it’s safe to say that weddings have been on my brain lately.

So one day, as I was driving, I was listening to the radio and was suddenly struck by the words of Kristian Stanfill’s song, “Even So Come.” I had heard it plenty of times before, but this time I really focused on the chorus:

Like a bride waiting for her groom
We’ll be a Church ready for You
Every heart longing for our King
We sing
Even so come
Lord Jesus, come

The song speaks of the return of Jesus and how as Christians we should look forward to that day. I am truly eager for this day to come so I can be in the physical presence of Christ. While a wedding is typically filled with joy, how much greater that joy will be when we are at the Wedding Supper of the Lamb!

There are so many things I love about this song, but mostly, I keep coming back to the phrase, “Like a bride…”

We are called to wait for the return of our King like a bride preparing to meet her groom on her wedding day.

What does that look like?

A bride spends time making herself beautiful. She puts on makeup. She fixes her hair in an elaborate up-do. She puts on a white gown that will make the crowd, and specifically her groom, gasp. She has taken extra effort into making all the details perfect. Nothing is out of place.

Then, the time comes. The music is playing and the doors are about to open. The bridegroom is eagerly waiting at the end of the aisle for that first glimpse of his bride. In just a matter of moments the couple will pledge themselves to one another for a lifetime. All of the preparations are for THIS moment.

We are so close to being united with Christ forever. The moment is almost here. Our preparations will not go unnoticed the day our eyes meet His. Let’s not grow weary in our pursuit of the Kingdom and striving to complete His work on earth.

What are some ways that you are preparing to meet The King?

“Then I heard again what sounded like the shout of a vast crowd or the roar of mighty ocean waves or the crash of loud thunder:

‘Praise the LORD!
For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns.
Let us be glad and rejoice,
and let us give honor to him.
For the time has come for the wedding feast of the Lamb,
and his bride has prepared herself.
She has been given the finest of pure white linen to wear.’
For the fine linen represents the good deeds of God’s holy people.

And the angel said to me, ‘Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb.’ And he added, ‘These are true words that come from God.’” (Revelation 19:6-9; NLT)

The Story of Us

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I love this picture from Alexa’s Photography! This was taken about 2 1/2 years after Eric and I were married.

Approximately eight years ago, I walked down the aisle to marry my husband. Apart from my relationship with Christ, this has been the best decision I have ever made. Here is a little trip down memory lane…

I came to Greensboro as a college freshman, eager to dive into a local church and college ministry. Eventually, I landed at Daystar Church. At the time, it was a very small church with under 100 people, but I was drawn to the warmth and passion for God that I found from the leadership.

One such leader was a young man by the name of Eric. He was the worship leader and it was obvious that he had a close, personal relationship with God. He exuded humility and strength. Plus, he was pretty cute. But he was a Pastor. It seemed weird to have a crush on a Pastor, so I attempted to put it out of my head.

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My Dad predicted the relationship early on. He took this picture during a visit and then sent it to me with the label “someweirdguy.”

Turns out this Pastor thought I was kinda cute too, so his first move to get to know me was to invite me to join the choir that was getting started. Now, for those of you who know me, this is kind of a ridiculous request as I do not sing. I insisted as such, but somehow he managed to convince me to at least attend the interest meeting.

Well, I joined the choir. I later started up a dance team with a friend of mine. I also volunteered to help out when the church was doing renovations. Eric and I worked alongside each other as we both pursued God and fought for His kingdom.

The day he had me hooked was the day he “fixed” my flat tire. Turns out the hole was too big, so he bought me a new tire while trying to pass it off as a repair. I may still have the nail that created the leak.

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The earliest picture I could find of the two of us together. This was taken at a Christmas party a couple months after our initial “talk”.

I kept trying to talk myself out of having a crush on Eric, but it wasn’t going so well. My dad picked up on what was going on in my heart, and even seemed to encourage the idea of a relationship between us. My dad’s opinion has always meant the world to me.

Just when I thought I had overcome my feelings, Eric acknowledged his feelings toward me. At the start of my Junior year, he asked me out.

Or maybe that’s a lie.

What really happened is that he asked me to start talking with him to see if our relationship could potentially lead toward marriage. My heart soared. You guys, everything that he spoke about that day was everything that my heart had desired. I had never dated anyone and had no intentions of doing so unless I knew that person as a friend first. I wasn’t interested in getting into a relationship just to get my heart broken.

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For one of our first official “dates” we went on a double date to a NASCAR race!

I knew God was fulfilling the desires of my heart. On that day, the day our relationship officially “began,” Eric shared his heart:

  • He read 1 Peter 3:4 to me, “You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.” He said he saw this in me.
  • He asked me to read Passion and Purity by Elisabeth Elliot because he admired the way the Elliots had walked out their courtship.
  • He said he wanted to protect our hearts, and as such, wanted to establish guidelines within our relationship. We would hang out in groups and talk on the phone, but we would refrain from being alone or even holding hands for a year.

I think I managed to say something like, “me too.”

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At a wedding just two months before our own engagement.

With encouragement and full support from our family, mentors, and friends, we continued to pursue the relationship. The year mark was shortened to 9 months and about 9 months after that we became engaged. 3 months later we were married. (On Father’s day nonetheless! “Daddy, on Father’s Day, I want you to give me away to a boy.” What a thoughtful daughter I am!)

Eric and I have now been married for 8 years. We have had the great pleasure of being part of a growing church and a healthy community. We have experienced challenging days and rewarding days. We are not the same people we were the day we said, “I do,” but we are better and stronger.

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Wedding Day! Too happy to notice the power lines and rusted metal in the background of most of our pictures.

I am so thankful for this man and the way he has lead our relationship. It gives me great delight to say that I have never once doubted that God designed for us to be together. We make a great team and it is such an honor and joy to be his wife.

I love you, hubby!

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8 years and two little girls later. I love this family of mine! (Have you noticed that I also love Alexa’s Photography?)

“Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4; NIV)