Culture Shock

Note: To my South Dakota/Midwestern friends (and my husband), I love you dearly and I am thankful to be here. However, I am feeling the weight of being different right now, and I will be writing this from the perspective of an Alabama girl with culture shock. Just bear with me.

Some people think that my adjustment to South Dakota winter is the greatest challenge and transition I’ve faced as I moved here from Alabama. I disagree. Fall in the south is something no other region can match.

College football season has officially begun, and I am living in a land where few people care. They think football is played on Sundays…

Never fear. I just upgraded our cable package to include the SEC network because it does not come with the standard lineup in this area. We are ready.

It really is a whole new world here. Today should be the day when all the teachers come to school in jeans and their team shirt. We should be heckling each other about our teams and preparing dips for our tailgate parties. I should be able to walk into Academy and swim through sections of orange and blue or crimson and white. We should see huge RV’s driving toward our campuses. Our cars should be covered with stickers, magnets, and flags (not tags on the front since we are required to have front license plates).

There are two main state universities here. One is an ag. school. The other is more into liberal arts and medicine. Sounds familiar, right? The similarities end there. I’ve been shocked to discover that many families hold little to no allegiance to either one if they didn’t attend that school. Don’t they know that they should choose a side and their babies’ first words should be “Jacks!” or “‘Yotes!” (The mascots are Jackrabbits and Coyotes (pronounced like “yoats”.)

It is hard for me to admit that my children won’t grow up in the atmosphere of the SEC. When it comes to the temptation to idolize our teams or the pride that dominates this hobby, I’ll admit that it may be wise to keep distance. However, it’s so FUN.

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When we started dating, Peter and I made a deal that I would cheer for the Vikings on Sundays if he would cheer for Auburn on Saturdays.

And rest assured – I’ll be wearing my team colors with my jeans to work today. :)

WAR EAGLE!

We Met Online: My Only Hunting Trip So Far

In keeping with our new tradition, I booked a flight for the next break from school – Veteran’s Day… (By the way, our dating relationship was SO EXPENSIVE. I’m so thankful the days of flying every month are over!)

Also, it is a good thing I was working for a district and principal that gave me flexibility with my “sick” days. Does “lovesick” count?

I actually worked on Thursday, drove straight to the airport, and left Birmingham around 5pm bound for layovers in Memphis and Minneapolis before Sioux Falls. I was afraid that I would miss a flight, but I finally arrived around 11:30. Peter made the best use of his night and had a date in a tree with his bow before driving into the city to pick me up. He had to work the next morning, so we went straight home and to bed.

The next morning, I slept in a little before Peter’s dad drove me about 30 minutes southwest to the University of South Dakota for a campus tour to learn more about their doctorate program. Sometimes I think that I would like to be a professor for a university and teach about elementary reading education, and that generally requires a doctoral degree. I met with an admissions representative, walked around the campus with a graduate student, and met with a professor in the program.

Her words?

“The program would be fine.”

Hi. Hello. Nice to meet you. I’ve never been one to settle for “fine.”

So… Needless to say, that was pretty much the end of that conversation.

That night after Peter came home from work, we went to visit with his childhood best friend who later stood next to him as the best man in our wedding. Joe and Peter met in 3 year old preschool, and the story goes that they conspired together in the bathroom to figure out a way to break out of there and go home. When I visited in November, he and his wife had just recently come home with their first baby, a precious boy named Kenson. They were very friendly and welcoming, and I enjoyed seeing Peter with a baby. I also noticed that our conversations about our relationship and the future turned a bit more serious after Kenson was born… Seeing his best friend with a wife and baby seemed to help Peter feel more secure and excited about his own hopes to be a husband and father.

That night, Peter introduced me to his love for classic kid and family movies, and we watched Cool Runnings. I’m pretty sure he could quote the whole thing.

On Saturday, we had a lazy morning before riding the 4-wheeler, playing with his dog Crockett, and climbing on hay bales.

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Then, in a moment of crazy dating love, Peter got me in a tree stand to hunt at dusk with him for the first and only time so far in our relationship. It was about 50 degrees outside, and although I’m pretty sure Peter could have been fine in jeans and a t-shirt, I layered on leggings, jeans, multiple pairs of socks, a t-shirt, a sweatshirt, and his younger sister’s old coveralls. And I still felt cold.

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Note: The brown thing on my head is called a toboggan. Some would argue that a toboggan is a sled and the hat should be called a stocking cap. Some would be wrong. The end.

We went to one of his hunting spots where he has two stands side-by-side in a split tree. When we got there, we parked the truck pretty far away and had to tiptoe quietly toward the grove. When we got to the base of the tree, where there were only pegs in the trunk instead of a ladder, Peter turned to me and whispered, “Just watch what I do and follow me.”

In about three huge steps, his six-foot frame had reached the stands half-way up the tree. He turned around, looked down, and found his girlfriend looking indignant with her arms crossed. He says his first thought was, “Oh no. We’re going home.”

I just couldn’t believe that he took steps as tall as my entire body and expected me to follow him up! Not to mention, I could barely move in all those clothes!

But even though I may have attitude, I am not a quitter. As he tried to coach me on places to put my feet and climb, I snapped, “Just let me do it my way. I’ll figure it out.”

And I did!

I wouldn’t exactly call hunting fun in my eyes. I saw the first deer, so I was excited about that, but we only saw does, so Peter didn’t even try to shoot anything. I enjoyed spending time with him and feeling like he was a kid in a candy shop with his girlfriend in the tree next to him, but unfortunately that was about all I felt. My extremities went a little numb sitting on a tree stand because my southern tolerance for cold was still nonexistent. Thankfully, we were going on a date that night to celebrate my birthday that had passed since the last time we were together, so I knew there was a light at the end of that cold tunnel.

Side note: After living in South Dakota for a year, I now realize that was a warm day. However, I still don’t find it necessary to sit in a tree at that temperature. Which way’s the beach?

That night he took me to one of our current favorite places. It’s called the Spink Café, and it’s a hole-in-the-wall restaurant in the middle of nowhere in an old general store. It was love at first sight when I saw fried okra on the menu. In fact, almost everything there is fried, and it is decorated with Elvis memorabilia and has an old jukebox on one side. It’s my kind of place.

Unfortunately, the only picture we took there is a dark selfie in which I almost cut myself out. Happy birthday to me!

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But don’t worry! The other picture from that night makes up for the first one… Someone found his old high school letterman jacket from football! It literally comes down to my knees.

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After church on Sunday morning, as we were walking out together, we stopped briefly to speak to the pastor. I still remember him shaking my hand, looking me in the eye, and saying, “You love Jesus, don’t you? I can tell…” That was one of the best compliments I’ve ever been given.

That afternoon, we celebrated an early Thanksgiving with Peter’s parents since he would be missing his family festivities to visit me instead! His mom prepared a huge meal with all the fixings, and I loved having an excuse to celebrate one of my favorite holidays twice in one year!

His mom also took a picture of us that afternoon. I’m not sure if it really went on there or not, but I know she wanted to try to get a good one for the Christmas card. I was officially part of the family…

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I had to leave that very next evening so that I could return to work on Tuesday. However, we used our last few hours to visit his grandmother in the nursing home and to spend a little time walking around the mall together before saying goodbye at the airport.

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Thankfully, it would only be a couple of weeks of waiting until his next southbound plane would bring him to a southern Thanksgiving with my extended family!!!

We Met Online: Wednesday Series at www.themiddleoflife.com

This is the thirteenth post in a series called We Met Online: Wednesday Series! Start from the beginning here, or you can also retrace the whole story here! I hope to write every Wednesday, using my old journals, photos, and memories to tell our story. I truly hope that it blesses you and brings glory to our Savior. Thanks so much for reading. Feel free to share this with others and check back for more soon! You can also subscribe to receive posts by email so you don’t miss anything!

It’s a Battle We Fight Together

Or maybe it’s a war full of many battles…

I’m talking about life.

This week has been full of big prayers. Many of the people I love are facing intimidating challenges and decisions, and it’s been a bit overwhelming.

I’ve asked some people for prayer this week, and their loving and united response has humbled me. I love that we are not alone. I am more honored than ever to return the favor and plead on their behalf.

Since reading Narnia, I’ve had a bit more imagination in my faith. Sometimes I see us as an army of all shapes, sizes, abilities, and weapons. We are fighting these battles together and never giving up.

My prayers got a bit more real last night. Less of, “Please Lord… Do this… Change this…” More vulnerable honesty saying, “Sometimes it feels like You don’t care because You aren’t doing anything about this.” (Which really means, “I’m tired of waiting, and I’m being a big baby about it. Hurry up.”)

I know… I know… He is always doing things we can’t see or comprehend. But for just a moment, I had to get real. I’m glad He’s big enough to handle that.

Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.

I tend to think of this story a lot when I pray with requests…

I absolutely know He CAN.

I just get stuck wondering if He WILL.

Disclaimer: We are fine. Feel free to pray with us because the Lord knows the things on our hearts, but this isn’t a melodramatic post to cause worry. :)

We Met Online: I Accidentally Said Three Little Words

Well – I think it’s pretty safe to say a boy likes you when he gets on a plane for the first time in his life so that he can come see you.

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That’s right! I visited Peter for Labor Day Weekend in September, and he returned the favor about a month later. This is his sleepy face as he was about to leave (way before the crack of dawn) to drive to and fly out of Omaha, Nebraska. He and his mom got direct flights to Memphis, Tennessee where I picked him up and she set off for Little Rock, Arkansas to spend the weekend with his younger sister Joni.

This trip was very special to me because I had a deep feeling that I was introducing my future husband to practically everyone I loved. For the first time in our relationship, I wasn’t nervous to see him. I’m sure it helped tremendously that he was coming to my comfort zone this time around. I just felt such peace and elation…

(Readers, you are in luck. Something stirred me to keep detailed notes on this visit. This should be a good one…)

His flight was scheduled to arrive in Memphis at 1:15 in the afternoon, and I pulled into the parking deck at about 12:45. It was a good thing I was a little early because I got a text just a few minutes later letting me know he was on the ground.

I walked into the airport and waited in the baggage claim area at the bottom of a huge escalator. Instead of seeing Peter coming down with his mom, I was first met by a huge group from Texas A&M who were coming to Mississippi for a football game.

Because everyone was coming down an escalator to exit the airport, I saw and recognized his legs before I could actually see his face! We hugged and excitedly helped his mom pick up her rental car at Enterprise before heading southeast toward home.

Unfortunately, I had never driven in Memphis before. Let’s just say I got a bit turned around. And I don’t always handle tense situations well. Bless his heart.

But first stop after the lost became found? Chick-Fil-A of course! I had to introduce him to my culture!

We arrived at my house around 7:00pm, (Did I mention Memphis isn’t all that close to Birmingham? Still worth it.) and I briefly introduced Peter to my dad and grandmother for the first time. The next thing I knew, there was a knock at the door. We weren’t expecting company, and I was surprised when my dad’s sister Cindy came walking into the kitchen. She had come to “pick up green beans” from my dad’s garden. YEAH. RIGHT. Haha… Peter handled the surprise meeting very well, and we had a laid back night at home after that.

We set out for the Tour of Almost Everyone Jamey Loves fairly early on Saturday morning, stopping by the house where I lived for the last three years so he could meet my roommate Jenny. I think he won her heart by giving attention to her dachshund, Dora, and she sent a follow-up text after we left saying, “He’s got my vote!”

We quickly drove south, through Birmingham, on the way to my friend Katherine’s house. She graciously offered to host a small group of us at her house so I could show off Peter to my friends while we watched an Auburn football game. She didn’t want me to have to worry or stress about anything, so we were asked to pick up drinks. We stopped at Walmart in Chelsea to grab some two-liters, and Peter proceeded to chuckle at me as I strained to stand on my tip-toes and reach the bottles. He stepped in to rescue his short damsel in distress, and it was one of the first times after being single and independent for many years that I realized it would really be nice to have some help every once in a while.

When we parked in Katherine’s driveway, she came out her back door grinning and said, “You look just like your picture!” We spent the afternoon with three of my best friends – Katherine, Faith, and Megan, some of their husbands, and a few of their kids. Of course, Peter made a good first impression, and everyone liked him, although Megan’s husband gave him quite a handshake just to establish some ground rules… Jonathan’s always looked after me like a big brother. After the game, we all settled in around the living room, and I took advantage of the opportunity to snuggle up to Peter on the couch. Being that it was my first serious relationship, I had never really experienced life among couples, and I loved every minute. I was proud to have him there and share such a beautiful part of my life.

Late that afternoon, before heading back to my parents’ house, I showed him around my college campus at the University of Montevallo, and he loved the big trees and historic buildings. After all, parts of South Dakota were still like Little House on the Prairie when the school was started.

We returned home just in time for a cookout with my parents, sister, half-brother, and sister-in-law. My daddy is a master of the smoker, and everything was delicious. Peter loved talking with my brother about cars, and he listened pretty quietly as we joked our way through dinner. I’m glad we didn’t scare him off!

That night we looked at my baby pictures and watched Father of the Bride Part Two before crashing in preparation for another full day.

On Sunday morning, we got up early enough to say goodbye to my parents as they were leaving for Sunday school at their church. I had told my dad that I was planning to surprise Peter with a big day out. Peter thought I was taking him to Talladega for the big Nascar race, but instead, I planned to surprise him with a trip to the closest Bass Pro Shop and a local indoor gun range. The next thing I knew, as my dad stood in the living room talking with us before church, my heart stopped as he said, “So I hear you’re going to Bass Pro…” Dad!!! Not a surprise anymore, I guess… Luckily Peter still didn’t know about the gun range. He never saw that one coming.

Before his manly afternoon adventure, he first had to visit with my grandmother and two great aunts, Aunt Susie and Aunt Bobbie. Granny is generally mild-mannered, shy, and sweet – and she is even smaller than me. Peter took to her immediately and loved her smile and laugh. Of course, Susie and Bobbie are basically the opposite of my grandmother and gave Peter a run for his money. (I love how you can become more and more blunt and hilarious with each passing year of your life!) When Aunt Susie found out that Peter worked with cattle research, she firmly told him he would just have to move to Alabama and get a job at Auburn. That was a HUGE statement for such a die-hard Alabama fan. She must have really wanted to find a way to add him to our family!

Although the shock of unexpectedly pulling up at the huge Bass Pro complex didn’t work out as I hoped, Peter was still pretty stunned and speechless. He is a hunting-fanatic, so it was like he had achieved a life-long dream of mixing the outdoor world with a cute girl by his side. (His opinion… Just saying.) We mostly just walked around and admired/goofed off with all of the mounts and decor, and we left with the perfect purchase – a camo Auburn hat!

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The next stop, and now biggest surprise, of the day was a place called Hoover Tactical. I had heard about it on the radio and thought it would really earn me some great girlfriend points… After all, I had never even shot a gun before, much less been to a range! We decided to shoot a pistol and bought a few rounds to aim at paper zombie targets. Peter’s spirit wasn’t quite as overjoyed and pumped up as I had anticipated, but he just couldn’t get over the shock that his girlfriend planned such a surprise for him. That shock didn’t alter his aim though… Be warned. That boy can shoot! I almost passed on shooting because all the noise and power were quite intimidating for me, but one of the employees talked me through it and helped me calm down enough to shoot a few times. I completely missed the paper with two out of five of my shots, but I was just thankful to get a few hits. I was aiming for the zombie’s heart. Let’s just say Peter got a bit uncomfortable when we pulled in my paper to examine any bullet holes and he realized I aim low… Haha

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To top off an already incredible day, we finished with the 6:00 church service at Brook Hills. As usual, the sermon was challenging and annointed, and in the car Peter told me, “That was my favorite part of the weekend.” He said, “How about if I just come visit you every Sunday?” He’s such an answer to prayer.

My friends Lacey and Austin had just gotten engaged that weekend, so I introduced them to Peter and we relived the story over dinner at Jason’s Deli with Jenny and Katie.

We were dreading saying goodbye on Monday, but we made the most of our time together by stopping by my school on the way back to Memphis. Peter also passed that test and seemed to get a stamp of approval by my friends at work!

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This was also the morning that I introduced him to biscuits and gravy at Jack’s for the first time. It’s really a shame that we didn’t document such a momentous occasion.

The drive to Memphis was long and sad, but we listened to sermons on the way. I got a bit grumpy as the physical and emotional exhaustion set in, so I finally stopped and let him drive the rest of the way. He felt like my knight in shining armor, and I was almost instantly able to relax again and enjoy our time together.

We met his mom at Enterprise, turned in her car, and although Peter was upset and quiet, we spent our last few minutes together taking pictures in the airport.

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When the time came to finally say goodbye, I walked with Peter and Dorothy toward the entrance to the security area. I hugged her first, and she walked ahead to give us some privacy. Peter leaned down to hug and kiss me goodbye, and we promised that the time would pass quickly and we would see each other again soon… After all, I was due for another long weekend in November for Veteran’s Day. South Dakota was calling my name!

I’m sure we both had tears in our eyes, and as we pulled away from each other – reaching out, still holding hands in the air, I did it…

I felt those three little words fly out of my mouth faster than I could chase them down.

“I love you.”

If only we had this scene on video… Perhaps I should have contacted airport security about surveillance. I would LOVE to see a replay of our body language. I know Peter was caught off guard, and he quietly mumbled, “I love you too,” but I couldn’t really hear or understand him.

I was too busy freaking out.

I wonder if I got taller for a brief moment as my spine straightened and muscles tightened with surprise and fear.

I’m sure my eyes were as huge as saucers, and the smile on my face was most likely replaced with a ghostly, blank stare.

We pulled away from each other and waved. He followed his mom into the security check, and I bolted.

Yep. I practically ran out of there. I could not seem to get down the escalator and to my car fast enough. My heart was racing, and I could not believe that I had just told him I loved him – on accident.

Oh sure, I meant it. That’s why I said it. It was the most natural thing at the time.

“For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” Matthew 12:34″

But, you see… I’m a planner. I had tread carefully up until this point, so afraid that I would push too hard or move too fast or jump to conclusions. I had been burned before with other guys that caught my eye, and I didn’t want to scare this one away.

And I’m the girl… I didn’t want to say it first!

But there it was. I couldn’t take it back.

Let’s just say that next phone call was both awkward and thrilling as we explained ourselves and more confidently expressed our feelings.

We really did.

We loved each other.

(And we still do!)

We Met Online: Wednesday Series at www.themiddleoflife.com

This is the twelfth post in a series called We Met Online: Wednesday Series! Start from the beginning here, or you can also retrace the whole story here! I hope to write every Wednesday, using my old journals, photos, and memories to tell our story. I truly hope that it blesses you and brings glory to our Savior. Thanks so much for reading. Feel free to share this with others and check back for more soon! You can also subscribe to receive posts by email so you don’t miss anything!

Back to School!

Back to School

Well… It’s that time of year again. It’s time to go back to school!

We have completed our three required teacher workdays full of meetings, professional development, time to work in our rooms, and open house. Now we have a three-day weekend to rest and say goodbye to the summer before kids come bright and early on Monday!

More than anything right now, I am both thrilled and relieved to embark on another year in the same building serving in the same position with many of the same teachers and students. Last August, my life turned upside down with a new job in a new state, a new house, and a new marriage. It makes me tired again just thinking about it.

After a year of transition, I feel like this summer was also a bit chaotic. I guess some teachers use their summers to work at another job or to spend many days at home or with their kids at the pool. Unfortunately, my white legs will quickly attest that I did not spend a single day in the sun or water. Instead, my summer flew by with house projects, VBS, a conference for reading teachers, visits from a friend and my family, and two weeks in Alabama. As some say, I need a vacation from my vacation!

I’m looking forward to a return to routine, structure, and stability, and I am hoping that I can continue to improve the balancing act between work and home. I still don’t know how working moms (and especially single moms) do it all. The last thing I want to do when I get home from work is spend hours cooking and cleaning up in the kitchen or doing laundry. In fact, sitting on the couch watching Fixer Upper or My Big Family Renovation on HGTV sounds just right to me. How in the world do they leave one job and come home to another that involves bath time, homework, or late night feedings???

Last fall, I really struggled to balance cooking and cleaning with the 50 hours each week that I spend teaching and commuting. Unfortunately for our waistlines, I resorted to many convenience foods in order to protect my time and sanity. Now that we have settled in a bit more, I’m hoping to find time and energy to think more about nutritional value than convenience. Of course, that’s easier said than done!

On another note, I’m hoping to continue with the blog as consistently as I possibly can. I plan to keep up with the Wednesday story to finish telling our story all the way through until our wedding, and then at least one day a week I will share updates on our current life mixed with some of the things I’m learning and reflecting on. I’ve also been asked to contribute monthly to a Christian blog about marriage, and I’m really excited to share things God is teaching us! I’ll link to those posts as well for anyone who is interested…

By the way, thank you so much for reading and for all the positive feedback and compliments that I’ve been receiving lately. I enjoy writing and am excited to have this blog to document and remember our life together, and sharing with readers makes it even more fun. If you’re on Facebook, you can “like” my blog page for updates when I post.

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Click this picture for a link to the page!

So how am I spending my final weekday of summer break??? Laundry. Our life is so glamorous… But I’m also enjoying some peace and quiet while Fixer Upper plays on my DVR.

I love my life!

We Met Online – The First Visit

After Peter and I met in Rapid City, South Dakota, I returned to Alabama and wasted no time in making plans to see him again. As a teacher, my life tends to revolve around the school calendar from August until May, so I targeted our first break – Labor Day Weekend – to take a bit more time to get to know Peter and his family.

I flew from Alabama early on Saturday morning and arrived in Sioux Falls around lunch time. The airport here is fairly small, so I quickly walked away from the gates and took a moving sidewalk that led downstairs toward the parking and baggage claim. Just like much of our early relationship, it felt like a scene from a movie as I moved toward the man that I hoped I would one day marry… My heart was racing as I stepped onto the moving sidewalk – and I stumbled and almost fell.

I think my movie would be a romantic comedy.

Luckily Peter was down below, sitting at a table, and he did not see me trip. The rest of our reunion went smoothly as he gave me flowers and we hugged before heading out toward his car.

Peter’s job involves livestock, and as it turns out, they are not satisfied with a typical Monday-Friday work week. They also have to be fed and cared for on weekends and holidays. Just our luck – Peter’s assigned work weekend coincided with this visit, so he did morning chores before picking me up and driving back together for the afternoon chores. Before we left Sioux Falls, we grabbed lunch at Culver’s.

Oh, and I should also probably mention that he took me to look at a house.

At the time, he was thinking about purchasing a modular home that had a similar look to a mountain cabin. He had seen it a few times and told me about it previously. As someone who loves the drama of surprise, he thought it would be fun to take me straight from the airport to look at this home in order to get an idea of my thoughts and opinions. I was a little surprised that we were not officially in a relationship yet and we were looking at a home together, but I also had peace in my heart and enjoyed trying to picture our life together.

One of Peter’s first experiences with my strong-willed attitude (first of many!) occurred when he took me to his work for the afternoon. I thought that he would leave me to sit in the car and read or listen to music, but I was surprised to discover that he wanted to show me around. I was so concerned that we were breaking rules or he would get into trouble, and I couldn’t fully relax to enjoy the tour.

We finally finished everything and arrived back at the farm later that afternoon where I met Peter’s sisters and dad in the driveway. They were very welcoming and sweet to me, although his dad, Philip, threw me for a loop as he cracked a joke: “What was your name again?” That was the first of many jokes that have since broken the ice and calmed my nerves.

Peter’s mom, Dorothy, cooked a delicious chicken pot pie for all of us to share around her dining table, and I tried to settle in and open up to this new family while making a good first impression. His mom talked a lot about meeting Philip and how opposites attract.

I also started breaking him in early on SEC football that night. :)

On Sunday morning, we all went to church together in Sioux Falls. Though we did not plan it, Peter and I accidentally came downstairs in color-coordinated outfits…

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His mom and sisters sang “Give Me Jesus” and “Victory in Jesus” during the church service that morning, and I struggled to hold in tears of joy as I realized that those beautiful voices could one day become my new family.

After church, he took me to Falls Park to see the large waterfall that is near downtown Sioux Falls. It was really hot and there wasn’t much water flowing because of a drought. Parking was crowded, and when we finally got to walk around, we struggled to take a selfie because of the wind blowing my hair everywhere.

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We drove through Taco John’s for lunch that day before heading to work for another round of afternoon chores.

He also took me to see Christy Nockels at a huge Christian music festival called Lifelight. And I’ll admit it. I rode in the middle seat of his truck. Never thought I’d be that girl…

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Monday was pretty laid back. Peter napped a bit between work, so I went to a farm supply store with his mom and sister.

When he got home from work we went for a four-wheeler ride to explore the gravel roads and farmland during the late afternoon.

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As we rode the four-wheeler, Peter showed me around his family farmland including one of the most gorgeous historic farmhouses that I have ever seen.

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This house was passed down from his great-grandparents to his grandparents and sits on the land where the cattle barns and machine shed are located. My rose-colored glasses began to cause me to dream about fixing up this home to raise our family there. I still love that this backyard is where we shared our first kiss that evening. :)

It was on the couch in the piano room where Peter officially asked me to be his girlfriend. We were hanging out and talking and he made a comment referencing me in this role. I quickly and playfully corrected him and reminded him that we were not yet officially in a relationship, so he fixed that by formally asking me. Of course I said yes! I couldn’t believe it… Besides elementary and middle-school crushes, this was my first official relationship. He was worth waiting for.

The next morning, before taking me back to the airport, he surprised me with a trip to a place called Spirit Mound. This is a tall hill set in the middle of flat plains a little less than ten miles from the Missouri River. Now it is a park and conservation area to preserve its habitat and history because this was a stop for Lewis and Clark where they caught their first glimpse of herds of buffalo and elk spread along the flowing landscape.

We took the brief hike to the top of the hill and took pictures.

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I still believe that walking down that hillside and holding hands was the moment I realized I loved him. My mind was flooded with thoughts about his calming spirit and God’s beautiful creation. I loved connecting with the history of the land and talking with Peter about the pioneer days and particularly my childhood fascination with Laura Ingalls Wilder and the Little House on the Prairie series. I feel like God opened my eyes that day to His power to weave together intricate details as I realized that my love of reading at age 9 eventually connected with the man of my dreams and my future home almost 20 years later. I love those moments when I feel small and loved and known by our huge God.

Returning home and to work wasn’t nearly as fun as this long-awaited romantic vacation, but I knew Peter would come to meet my family and see my home soon!

We Met Online: Wednesday Series at www.themiddleoflife.com

This is the eleventh post in a series called We Met Online: Wednesday Series! Start from the beginning here, or you can also retrace the whole story here! I hope to write every Wednesday, using my old journals, photos, and memories to tell our story. I truly hope that it blesses you and brings glory to our Savior. Thanks so much for reading. Feel free to share this with others and check back for more soon! You can also subscribe to receive posts by email so you don’t miss anything!

We Met Online – After the First Date

If you missed them, read about our first date HERE and HERE!

The drive from southwest South Dakota, through Nebraska, to a hotel near the Denver Airport is longer than it looks on the map… My mom and I finally arrived at our hotel and collapsed sometime around midnight. For the record, it is really dark on the open plains after the sun sets. I remember that parts of the road between the Colorado state line and Denver had very faded or nonexistent yellow and white lines, and there were no streetlights. After driving 2,000 miles in one week, sleeping little, and the adrenaline rush of meeting Peter for the first time, I am amazed that we made it back safely.

It’s funny: Cramming too much into my schedule, especially when on trips, is pretty common with me. You’d think I would learn…

We arrived at our hotel at just about the same time that Peter and his mom pulled into their driveway, and it was reassuring to receive text messages from him that let me know they were safe and happy.

After worrying all summer that I wouldn’t be enough – pretty enough, funny enough, tall enough, skinny enough, etc. – the wonder and waiting had come and gone, and I was left feeling amazed that he wasn’t disappointed with me and he wanted to see me again.

At the time, I was 27 years old and only a few months shy of 28. Yet I didn’t feel like a typical 27-year-old. Through high school and college, I basically chose not to date much. I was focused on my faith and on school, and I met very few guys who shared my priorities. By the end of college, I was confused because I had not found my high school or college sweetheart to marry at the age of 22. Embarking on my teaching career as a single young woman wasn’t exactly something I had planned to do.

Even during the five years between college and meeting Peter, dates were few and far between for me. Elementary teachers who don’t hang out in bars just don’t meet very many guys. The ones I did meet either didn’t fit or didn’t like me.

I realize that I made a lot of choices (which I believe were part of God’s providence) that led me to spend those years on my own instead of in other relationships. I am thankful that I was spared much of the drama and heartbreak that my friends experienced and that I did not share myself with multiple young men before my husband. However, I also struggled with the insecurity that I would never be chosen.

I just wasn’t the girl that caught every guy’s eye when she walked in the room.

So my fears and doubts were quite a struggle early on with Peter. In some of our first messages on eHarmony, I told him to talk to other girls because I didn’t want him to focus on me and feel cheated, unsure, or disappointed. After hours and hours of phone conversations and text messaging, seeing him in person was so nerve-wracking that my stomach felt queasy and my mouth wouldn’t move.

What if he didn’t like me?

Or what if he did, and this was really it? What if he was the one?

I wrote in my prayer journal on July 30th after returning home:

Spending time with Peter was wonderful. I enjoy him so much. I think his heart is so wonderful, and I appreciate who he is and who he desires to be. Thank You for blessing our time together and with our moms. Thank You for their blessing and encouragement. I still can’t say I know he is part of Your plan for my life long-term, but so far… so good… I can see that I really struggle with all of this. I am guarded and unsure. It’s hard for me to stop thinking and over-analyzing to just feel and enjoy. Peter says all the time that You are using me in his life for good – to calm him and challenge him and motivate and encourage him. I pray that You will use him for my growth and sanctification as well. Please guide my steps and show me Your will for us.

Prayer Journal

Mom and I flew back to Alabama on Saturday, July 28th. It didn’t take me long to book another flight to see that cute boy in South Dakota… School was starting soon, but I planned to take full advantage of our first break – Labor Day Weekend!

We Met Online: Wednesday Series at www.themiddleoflife.com

This is the tenth post in a series called We Met Online: Wednesday Series! Start from the beginning here, or you can also retrace the whole story here! I hope to write every Wednesday, using my old journals, photos, and memories to tell our story. I truly hope that it blesses you and brings glory to our Savior. Thanks so much for reading. Feel free to share this with others and check back for more soon! You can also subscribe to receive posts by email so you don’t miss anything!