We Met Online: Wednesday Series Part 9

Aside from my favorite part of our early story, this may be one of the most fun and special posts to share about the process of meeting Peter online and moving toward marriage with him. After emailing for a week and talking/texting for almost two months, we were finally all set to meet in person.

Warning: This post is LONG. Grab a beverage. Settle in. It’ll be awhile if you make it all the way to the end.

When I left off last week, my mom and I had driven from the Old Faithful Inn at Yellowstone National Park to our hotel in Rapid City, South Dakota on Thursday, July 26th. As we moved east, Peter and his mom were making a westward journey to a hotel very close to ours. We were all full of anticipation and wonder. At the ages of 26 and 27, were we finally meeting our future spouses that night?

I was a nervous mess. My stomach hurt, and I couldn’t really eat all day.

I found out through his text messages that we all arrived in Rapid City at about the same time, and Peter and his mom were just down the street. However, if I was truly about to meet my future husband and make a good first impression, I was adamant that I wanted to shower, change, and primp a bit. I told him that I would let him know when I was ready, and he could come pick me up.

My mom says I have never in my life taken so long to get ready.

After about TWO HOURS, he stopped waiting and sent me a message to let me know he was on his way and would meet me in my hotel lobby.

By this point, I was pretty terrified. Two months had been a long time to get to know someone and wonder about them if it was all going to turn out to be a dud. And what about that pastor who prayed for him by name before we ever even talked on the phone? I was exhausted and scared and queasy. This was all too much to deal with.

I hugged my mom goodbye and walked through the long hallway to our hotel lobby. Just as I passed through a large doorway, walking by the large registration desk on my left, I heard a familiar melody and lyrics…

I AM NOT EVEN KIDDING. “Unchained Melody” was playing in our fancy, yet outdated hotel lobby at the very moment when Peter and I saw each other in person for the first time.

As I walked around the corner, I saw him near the front wall. He had his back to me and was casually looking at a selection of tourist postcards, trying to look calm, cool, and collected. I guess I kind of snuck up on him… He turned around and saw me when I was about ten feet away.

Just as I had seen through the pictures he shared on his eHarmony profile and email (as well as the ones I found while stalking him on Facebook), I thought he was very good looking… The only surprise was his height! He is about 6′ or a little taller, and I knew that, but it was more shocking to see how far I had to look up at him! I felt bad when he hugged me and had to lean down so far since I’m only 5’1″!

That first moment of seeing each other in person wasn’t as uncomfortable as I feared it would be, but I definitely showed my awkward side for the next couple of hours. We walked out of the hotel lobby to get in his car, and I remember rubbing his arm and exclaiming, “I just want to touch you!” Unfortunately for Peter, that was one of the few things I said voluntarily that he didn’t have to drag out of me. My nerves got the best of me, and I clammed up on him for the next couple of hours. He has told me since then that it really caused him to doubt us for a little bit because he wasn’t sure he could be with someone who didn’t talk!

We didn’t really have a plan set for the evening. We just said we would start by going to dinner somewhere and then we would play it by ear. We got into his car and started driving around, but apparently it was the blind leading the blind. Peter grew up traveling to the Black Hills pretty often, so I thought he knew his way around and had a restaurant picked out. However, when he would visit that area, he mostly spent time at a cabin, so he really didn’t know much about the city. While I rode silently and smiling in the passenger seat, he was frantically trying to figure out where we should eat. We came back from a downtown area toward our hotels and the mall, and I saw and suggested Texas Roadhouse because he had told me it was his favorite restaurant. He seemed a little surprised by my suggestion, but he liked the idea and that we had finally made a decision.

One issue with Texas Roadhouse that I didn’t really consider is that it has a really loud environment with blaring country music and dancing waitresses. I was already giving him more silence than he was ready to handle, and now we practically had to yell at each other if we wanted to try to talk! My nerves were still on edge, so I really wasn’t hungry. We both ordered steaks, although I got the smallest one on the menu and had to force myself to eat it. I left about half of my food on my plate, so now he was starting to think that I don’t talk OR eat! I’ve since corrected that false impression!

Peter did a great job carrying the conversation, although I did notice he seemed a bit perturbed each time the waitress would come by to check on us. I guess he didn’t want to be interrupted!

When my mom and I were at the rodeo in Cheyenne, Wyoming earlier in the week, I bought Peter a shirt and hat, and I gave them to him at our table at the restaurant. I had asked his younger sister about his size in a Facebook message. However, I was really embarrassed when Peter opened it up and laughed because it was too small! I also gave him a pocket-sized Jackson Hole souvenir version of a dice game called Farkle. I felt a little better because he really loved that.

After we ate, we sat on a bench to take pictures outside the restaurant. We had to sit and wait for a few minutes because the car parked right in front of us was leaving, and their headlights were shining on us. While we waited, a woman walked up and asked for $2 so she would have enough money to stay in a local shelter. Peter was impressed when I automatically gave it to her without any hesitation, and we talked about how we like to give whenever we can and leave it to God to judge if the others use the money honestly or not. I loved that we agreed on that.

The only pictures we took that night were selfies on the bench in front of Texas Roadhouse.

Our first date picture

When we got back in his car, he gave me some really sweet gifts that he had gotten a few days prior at a Christian book store in Sioux Falls called Crossroads. I was already a little suspicious because when he was out shopping for me, he sent a few texts asking about my favorite Bible verses. I really couldn’t figure out why he wanted them – he didn’t seem like the kind of guy who would be making a craft for me or anything like that… Little did I know that I was giving him obscure verses and he was looking all over the store for something with one of my verses on it! He got me a canvas with a beautiful beach scene that says “Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10. What a great reminder that night that I could relax and trust the Lord!

He had also told me that he was reading a book and he wanted me to read it when he finished. It was in his backseat when we were driving and looking for a restaurant. He admitted that he hadn’t quite finished it yet, and then he did a big reveal… I’m pretty sure I laughed out loud when he showed me it was Wild at Heart by John Eldridge. That has been one of my dad’s favorite books for years! I had previously only read the chapter about women, but I was excited to read the whole thing now with both my dad and Peter in mind. Because he wasn’t finished, I assured him that I would borrow my dad’s copy. He also gave me some small cards with our names and their meanings to use as bookmarks.

We decided to go try to play mini golf. Of course, we had a funny awkward moment when I called it “putt putt” and he had no idea what I was talking about! As we were driving away from the restaurant, we saw someone walking down the side of the road. Peter scared me a little bit when he started to pull over and roll down the window. I honestly thought he was taking charity and generosity a little too far.

However, it wasn’t a scary stranger… It was his mom!

She had walked from their hotel to the mall and gotten her nails done, and she was walking back to their room as the sun was going down. I’m sure we scared her a bit too, but her smile when she realized it was us was so warm and sweet! We gave her a quick ride to their hotel, and she talked joyfully the whole way there. I think she was really happy to meet me that night instead of waiting until the next day. She shared that she was able to strike up a conversation about the Gospel with the girl working on her nails, and I was amazed by her boldness and openness.

After such a busy week, I was extremely exhausted, and his mom could tell. However, she encouraged us to stay out as late as we wanted.

When we got to the golf place, it was about 9:30, but we realized they were closing at 10:00. We felt like we wouldn’t have time to play, so we turned around to walk back to the car. That was when he grabbed my hand for the first time. It took me by surprise, but it felt great and fit really well! It was funny to go from only talking to actually being together on a date, and I guessed he must have liked me if he wanted to spend more time with me and hold my hand…

We drove back to my hotel and settled in at a tall table outside of the connected restaurant called Perkins. There was a bar inside the hotel, and the music from inside became our background noise as we talked and played Farkle. I pulled a pen and paper out of my purse and embarrassed myself when the pen leaked on my hand and I smeared it on my forehead! It was a little weird, but he was sweet enough to lick his thumb and get the spot off my face without laughing at me too much. When we were playing the game, I got off to a really slow start, but I ended up winning. He was a really great sport and didn’t seem at all upset about losing.

When some people from the bar came to hang out outside, we decided to move and sit inside the lobby. The karaoke music was still a little distracting, and we laughed when we realized we were listening to someone butchering “Fancy” by Reba McIntire. We sat on the couch in the lobby and I showed him the pictures from my trip. It was so relaxing to sit close to him and to feel him lightly rubbing my back and playing with my hair. Physical touch is one of my main love languages, so I loved realizing that he is good with the exact thing that comforts me and makes me feel loved.

Around midnight, we walked down the hall and hugged right outside my door. I was a little curious to see if he would try to kiss me, but since it was all so much to take in for one night, I was glad when he waited. We both went to our hotel rooms and talked to our moms in eager anticipation of spending more time together the next day starting with plans to meet for breakfast at 9:00…

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

This is the eighth 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!

Just Another Change: How We Found Our Church

The 2013-2014 school year went extremely well, but it is a bit overwhelming to think of all the changes and adjustments that took place within such a short amount of time. Just in August 2013 alone, Peter and I found an incredible house to buy and I moved into it a few weeks before the wedding; I began my new job as a Reading Specialist in South Dakota instead of a classroom teacher in Alabama; and we got married.

No big deal…

In the months that followed, we adjusted, not only to marriage, but to living daily life together in the same place after being in a long-distance relationship for about a year. Instead of taking vacation time from work to fly to visit each other for a long weekend or a week, we were now living the reality of everyday life with long work hours, dirty dishes, and laundry. All the while, I was adjusting to a new culture and climate and basically waiting for the Lord to provide friends and community outside of my sweet husband and his parents who live about 15 minutes from us.

On top of all the other changes, another important transition for us in our early marriage involved finding and committing to a church.

Finding and committing to a church

Though we were both raised under Baptist heritage, there were a few differences in our experiences.

Peter spent much of his life in a very small, country church only a few miles from his house. He has such wonderful memories of growing up there, but for the last ten years or so, his parents have attended a church in Sioux Falls. His uncle was the pastor there at one time, and his dad currently works part-time as the custodian. This church loved us well as we prepared to be married there.

Trinity Baptist Recessional

If I have understood correctly, Peter was raised primarily in the North American Baptist Church. I, on the other hand, come from the Southern Baptist Convention.

My parents also raised me in church for my entire life, and now that I think about it, it seems as though the churches I have attended have gotten larger and larger with my age… Because I went to boarding school in Mobile, Alabama for 11th and 12th grades, I faced the choice of finding my own church a bit earlier than most. I landed for a couple of years at a very large church called First Baptist North Mobile, and I believe that God used that church and the families that I met there to change my entire life and the plans I was attempting to pursue. Through life transitions like college and relocations around the area for teaching jobs, I also spent some time at Gardendale First Baptist, Hunter Street Baptist, and most recently for about five years, at The Church at Brook Hills.

Brook Hills

What do these churches all have in common? They are HUGE Southern Baptist congregations.

What doesn’t really exist in our area of South Dakota?

Huge Southern Baptist churches.

In fact, Baptists in general are a bit few and far between. The Lutheran church and tradition seem to dominate our region, and there are a good number of Catholics as well. Then there are random small scatterings of other denominations. Gone are the days of my Alabama comfort zone seeing historic communities with large Baptist, Methodist, and Presbyterian buildings all near the town square within a couple of blocks of each other.

Though the most important issue to us in finding a church to serve and build community with is more about Gospel-centered, biblical preaching and teaching, Baptist worship traditions feel much more familiar for us, so we hoped to find a great one.

We attended church with Peter’s parents in Sioux Falls while we were dating and engaged. After we married and settled into our new home, we struggled with the decision to continue with our involvement there. I commute almost 45 minutes to work in Sioux Falls Monday through Friday, and Peter drives a bit further but in a different direction. We just knew we would not want to spend a sixth day of the week driving almost an hour from home. On top of that, we also knew it would really limit our ability to build deep friendships or to attend other Bible studies outside of the Sunday morning routine.

I’ll admit – I was scared. I have come from churches with thousands of members and nationally-known pastors who write New York Times Bestsellers. Could I ever find a church home in the rural Midwest?

Of course, I originally wanted to stick with my comfort zone, so I attempted to find a church affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. Through online searches, I found a few options that were either extremely tiny or moderately small and still about 30 minutes away. None of the options seemed like an obvious place to visit.

At Peter’s grandmother’s 100th birthday party last August, his uncle started talking to us about a church suggestion that would only be 10-15 minutes from our house. The next thing I knew, during the party, I was outside talking on Uncle Charles’ cell phone with a friend of his who attends the church. I found out all about the service schedule, the children’s and youth ministries, the music, and more. It sounded good, but I still wasn’t sure.

We weren’t really convinced to visit until a few weeks later on a Saturday night in September. I still consider that day one of the sweetest of our early marriage, as we took a daytrip to eat Chick-Fil-A at South Dakota State University, visited the Laura Ingalls Homestead in DeSmet, South Dakota, and made a stop at Cabela’s for Peter on the way home. As we drove home late that evening, we randomly circled back through the neighboring town and drove to look at the church building.

It was instant. We both felt united in peace about it as we sat in the car looking up at the building. We visited the next morning and haven’t looked back since.

First Baptist

We don’t often take pictures at church, but I do have a couple with Peter’s younger sister when she visited last fall.

First Baptist Front

This church is very different than those that I have been involved with over the last decade. There are about 100 people who are faithful to attend each week, and I think the pastor may be the only person on staff. It’s American Baptist. There are stained-glass windows and an organ. Located in the heart of a farming community, we go through the seasons together and pray for God’s favor for the planting and harvest.

Through this church, I have seen God’s faithfulness in the proclamation of His word – His presence and blessing are in the big and the small. We sing his praises in hymns and in contemporary choruses. We know and are known.

Peter and I have connected with two other young couples, and those girls feel like home. I am astonished at God’s providence in my friendships every time He has moved me to a new location.

Although I am thankful for the opportunity to visit my old church while I am in town, I am hopeful that I will grow more and more content to take the things that I have been blessed to learn and experience over the last few years and to use them to strengthen the body of Christ in our small corner of the world. I admit that I have spent too much time living more like a church snob than a humble disciple of Christ. I don’t want to live my new life in constant comparison. I want to be genuine and teachable. I want to continue to grow and learn in life-changing ways – wherever I am.

I just want to be faithful, and I hope He is honored.

I Came Home for People and Food

Ahh, sweet home Alabama. More specifically, Alabama in July. And it’s not terribly hot this week.

Bliss.

My wonderful husband made a long trip to work Tuesday morning with a detour to drop me off at the airport, and my mom picked me up just before noon. Isn’t it amazing that we are able to cover multiple states and many miles in a span of a few hours? After more than enough flights over the last few years that required my parents to pick me up late at night or leave a car in the parking garage for me to drive myself home, I decided it was time for the Alabama side of my travel to be simple and the sacrifice to take place on the other end.

I arrived just in time for lunch. How convenient.

Chick-fil-a

I admitted to my grandmother yesterday that coming home this time almost felt like a struggle. It’s not like I am devastatingly homesick and needing to refuel… After all, summer is easy. I don’t dislike my life in South Dakota, and I didn’t feel enthused to miss out on it for a couple of weeks.

I loved hearing her say she was proud of me for that and thankful that God has prepared me so well for the life He has given me. In 1954, at the age of 17, she married my grandfather and moved from Alabama to northwest Indiana so that he could work in the steel industry. I asked her some questions today about the early years of her marriage, and she admitted that she took almost three years to feel truly committed to her new home and to stop catching any ride that was heading south to go back to her momma. She loved hearing that I am not struggling with the same doubts and discontentment that she battled.

As I thought about it, I realized I came home to reconnect with wonderful people. It’s nice to revert to kid-mode under my parents’ roof and to hug my daddy as much as possible. I love bargain shopping with my mom at thrift stores. I have next week booked almost solid with something a friend coined “The Jamey Tour 2014,” and I am thrilled to reconnect, hold babies, play with children who are growing like weeds, and tour new houses.

Of course, all along the way, there will be good food. My mom and I learned from Beth Moore that this is biblical.

“She is like the ships of the merchant; she brings her food from afar.”
Proverbs 31:14

We go far for food.

Amen.

Yesterday there was a chimichanga at my favorite Mexican restaurant.

photo 3 (1)

It may not look special, but the inside is filled with treasures – chicken with sautéed onions and bell peppers. Plus, anything topped with white cheese has to be delicious.

There was also this end cap at Walmart.

photo 4 (1)

Milo’s Tea. Sweet nectar. One came home to live with us for a while, but I’m not telling Daddy where it is hidden. (I’ve heard that this rare specimen has been sighted in other areas of the country, such as California. The day I find it in South Dakota – I may cry tears of joy.)

By the way – this visit isn’t doing much to support my health-related goals. Oops.

As I shared on Instagram this evening, there is an abundant supply of these on the counter at home:

photo 5 (1)

Blount County tomatoes fresh from my daddy’s garden make my mouth water.

For any of you who are not quite blessed enough to be familiar with our Deep South ways, allow me to introduce you to the heaven-sent joy that is the tomato sandwich…

First, you pick tomatoes that are red and ripe, and you wash and slice them to the thickness of your liking.

photo 1 (2)

Although the next ingredient is debatable among some in this household (cough, cough, Daddy!), fresh, soft, white bread that sticks to the roof of your mouth is essential. (Apparently he would argue the benefits of toasted bread. Blasphemy.)

Spread both slices with mayonnaise. Some like it slathered on. I’ve been known to just grace the bread with a touch of it. Bama Light is my favorite, but I know we can’t all be so lucky.

Bama Light Mayo

Then use your Tetris space-filling skills to cover every square centimeter of bread with tomato. Cutting slices in half to cover corners is advised. I also sprinkle on a little salt. Others may advise pepper. Again, blasphemy…

Tomato sandwich

Close, and enjoy.

Tomato Sandwich

I had two last night. After all, it’s practically a salad.

And on the menu later today? BBQ. (That means pulled-pork around here…) Or maybe fried catfish. It’s hard to choose!

Five Minute Friday – Bloom

Bloom

“Bloom where you’re planted.”

Is that Scripture or just a quote? Either way, it’s valuable.

I guess that’s what I’m trying to do. Trying to be and blossom and succeed and look pretty and bear fruit wherever my roots sink deep.

My roots have been transplanted. Can they be in two places at once? If they are, I bet they don’t produce life.

So I’m learning… I’m learning to hold onto home and adjust to home – all at the same time. An old home and a new one. Both blessed. Both loved.

I know there are seasons of planting and tending. Some seasons are rough, and they provide fertilizer that brings growth. Sometimes we bloom together, and sometimes we bloom alone.

I hope I am blooming. I hope that I am blessing others through my bloom as they take me in.

I hope I am blooming for the glory of the Lord.

I am linking up again for a Five Minute Friday post in which bloggers write for five minutes without editing, revising, or second-guessing. This is writing in its purest form, and it likely reveals more to the writers than to the readers. This one is short because I took some time to re-read and soak in. I probably also allowed some second-guessing to sneak in, but I promise I didn’t delete or change! Thanks for reading, and feel free to check out the others!

Five Minute Friday

We Met Online: Wednesday Series Part 8

I shared in an earlier post that at certain points, our story will fly quickly with minimal details. As I revisit my journals from the summer of 2012, it looks like I can sum up the month of July with one brief sentence:

I worked on my portfolio to complete my Reading Specialist master’s program.

It consumed my time and my prayers. I spent hours and days gathering work samples and writing reflections on each. My materials filled a large, tabbed binder, and I faced tremendous fear that it would not meet the criteria for graduation. On July 18th, I wrote this in a prayer:

“I really hope to finish my portfolio today. Please place Your favor on my work. I’m just not sure it’s good enough. Help me to finish well.”

While I have been very blessed over the years with strong academic performance and test scores, I was intimidated by one summative project to encompass an entire degree. My perfectionistic side often struggles to be satisfied. I always feel that I can do something better, if only I will plan more and work harder. I had to finally concede and admit that enough was enough. I had poured myself into my work until I felt cross-eyed, exhausted, and drained of any remaining motivation.

I took it to my department chair for her review, and my heart pounded with insecurity and a deep desire to do well.

She casually flipped through it, smiled and made positive comments, and barely read a single page.

Seriously?!?

After days of work and stress, she browsed through it in about ten minutes, said it was great, and gave me an A.

It all felt very anticlimactic, but at least I accomplished my goal and was able to leave on vacation with my mom on July 21st with the peace and satisfaction of celebrating a job well done.

Peter was truly the light at the end of my tunnel.

As I worked, I knew that my long list of responsibilities that month would eventually give way to meeting him, and I just prayed for God’s will and answers about this man and our growing friendship. On July 16th (exactly two years ago today), I wrote,

“God, thank You for introducing me to Peter. I appreciate the sense of companionship. His faith is so genuine. His love and awe of You are so deep. Thank You for his appreciation of me. Lord, You know all things. You already know the future. Lord, I pray that we will know You and Your will and that we will be obedient. Be honored in our lives, Lord. I pray that we will trust You and point to You, no matter what…”

That is still my heart’s desire. Even as I write these posts to share our story, I want to be faithful to show that it is a story written by a glorious and loving Father. He wove the details together in amazing ways that we could have never dreamed for ourselves.

One of the major details included the trip that my mom and I planned months before I even signed up for eHarmony. In 2007, my family traveled to Cody, Wyoming for a week on a Make-A-Wish trip with my sister Logan. She loved rodeo, so we spent a week on a ranch, went to the Cody Nite Rodeo every night as guests of honor, and briefly toured the area to visit Yellowstone and see a few other attractions. That trip was a wonderful whirlwind, and my mom and I wanted to eventually return for more.

Sometime around March of 2012, we plotted our course and booked our flights, rental car, and hotels. We knew we would fly to Denver and spend a week driving to find adventure at the Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo, Grand Tetons, and Yellowstone. At the last minute and on a bit of a whim, we decided to add a destination that was a bit out of the way but seemed unlikely that we would ever visit under any other circumstances.

Mt. Rushmore near Rapid City, South Dakota

Mt. Rushmore

I’m still amazed that God led us there. After doing mission work in both Honduras and Poland and spending a considerable amount of time learning about physical and spiritual poverty around the world, I’m not always the first to sing “God Bless America” with gusto. I’m thankful for our freedom and much of our history, but I also want to live in a way that doesn’t seem to suggest that the entire world revolves around us. Mt. Rushmore wasn’t exactly on my bucket list.

Yet God knew I needed to go there.

I submitted my portfolio on Friday, July 20th and we flew from Birmingham to Denver on Saturday, July 21st. We had booked a rental car, and in the rush of completing the paperwork to borrow it, I flippantly agreed that I would be the only driver. BAD IDEA. I drove over 2,000 miles that week!

Mom and I travel together extremely well. We enjoy many of the same sight-seeing experiences, and we are often most concerned with and excited about our food options as we explore. We had a running joke throughout the week based on something I had seen on Pinterest…

“We love not camping.”

Neither of us are very athletic or outdoorsy, so we loved driving the perimeter of Wyoming, crossing any and all state lines to take pictures with the signs at the borders. We also slept fairly well in hotels rather than in tents on the ground.

Wyoming

Idaho

Unfortunately, our worst night of sleep took place the night before I met Peter. I begged my mom to stay at the Old Faithful Inn inside the park at Yellowstone. I spent about $200 to get a very basic room for us. Some of the rooms there still have community bathrooms, so I did spring for a private bathroom, but I didn’t realize that the room would be about the size of our rental car, and the bed was possibly original to the park almost a century ago! I’m a light sleeper, and the mattress bounced so much, I felt like I could feel my mom breathing. After a frustrating hour or so of laying side-by-side, exhausted, but groggily awake – I moved to the floor to try to salvage any remaining hours before rising early to head toward South Dakota the next morning.

When we looked on the map, the drive from Yellowstone to Mt. Rushmore didn’t seem extremely terrible, so we planned to do it all on Thursday, July 26th, and then I would meet Peter and go on our first date that night. Of course, there were a few factors that we didn’t take into account.

1) The Old Faithful Inn is on the western side of the park.

2) The drive just to get out of the park can take a couple of hours.

3) Wyoming is split by a mountain range that takes your breath away. Literally. I remember pulling off at a scenic overlook spot so I could try to stop the dizziness from driving around the cliffs and curves.

But we finally made it…

South Dakota

And you’ll have to wait until next week to hear about meeting for the first time and our first date! :)

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

This is the eighth 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!

How to Save Your iPhone Battery

Blogs come in all shapes and sizes, and I have noticed that Pinterest primarily seems to promote the ones that are resources for information instead of holding places for personal story-telling and reflection. There is a great demand for tips, tricks, and advice.

“How to clean your whole basement using only one tablespoon of vinegar!”

“How to spend $30 per month on groceries for a family of six!”

“How to save your marriage in 3 easy steps!”

Of course, I’m exaggerating a bit with these titles – but sometimes I feel like the awkward kid in middle school who doesn’t know where to sit in the cafeteria. My blog isn’t like that… Until today.

I figured it out…

Many iPhone owners and operators agree that the biggest weakness of the device is short battery life. I typically try to keep a charger with me at all times. There is a car charger in each of our vehicles, and I have been known to use the iPad chargers at school in my moment of need.

How to Save Your iPhone Battery

Yesterday, I pulled my phone off the charger when I woke up at about 8:00 to get ready for church, and it still had 70% charge when I went to bed last night.

The solution?

Don’t touch it.

My day was so full and fun that I didn’t have time to make my regular checks on email, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, blogs, or Pinterest. I talked to people in person instead of texting with them. It felt like 1993.

Instead of listening to music and sermon podcasts, I experienced worship in community. Instead of living my life through social media, I helped set up for and celebrate a baby shower with my closest friends. (Sidenote: This baby shower conveniently looked like my wedding reception because we used the same decorations. People raved. Pictures to come.) Instead of texting with my friend or looking at pictures on Facebook, I sat around the table with her and held her beautiful baby girl for hours.

Selfie with a baby

(This picture is from a couple of weeks ago. She told me she wanted to take a selfie. LOVE her.)

My friend and I sat together and didn’t ignore each other to play on our phones.

We talked and shared our hearts.

I couldn’t believe how calm and relaxed I felt.

I was already pretty attached to my phone prior to this attempt to blog regularly, but it has certainly not helped. Sometimes I wonder if I need to take a counter-cultural stand and return to a standard flip phone in order to recapture my time. Yet then I think of the times when my phone gives me directions, answers, and timely connections. As I travel back to Alabama soon, it will be an important tool to keep me connected to both of my homes.

So I need to find balance… Is it possible to be connected and present at the same time?

Making Our House A Home

Another example of God’s amazing plans and provision for us has been our amazing house… Last summer felt like a bit of a roller coaster as I lived with Peter’s parents and we got our first experience with house hunting. Originally, we thought we would live in an old farmhouse down the road from his parents, but it needed more work than we were prepared or equipped to handle in a young marriage on a young budget.

Though we would both prefer to be on an acreage out in the country with no nearby neighbors, we gave in to the idea of living in town and we began to tour a few homes with a realtor. We started our search in the town near Peter’s parents’ farm and where he went to school. We saw many homes with varying price ranges and needs for improvement, and we narrowed it down to two options.

I called them the pretty house and the ugly house.

Guess which one I wanted?

The pretty one…

Guess which one we put an offer on?

Haha… Submission is fun!

Truly, Peter was being the rational and practical one at the time. He was not swayed by new custom kitchen cabinets and historic wood banisters. A garage and a more solid and updated basement were calling his name.

The trick was that the practical, small, ranch-style home was a short-sale. That means the owners were not making their mortgage payments and would need to sell quickly to avoid foreclosure. Except living in a house for free must be pretty fun because they weren’t in a hurry…

The clock was ticking rapidly toward my first day of school and our wedding day, and when they missed a paperwork deadline and showed that they did not think those days were very important, we decided to pull out of our contract.

We were back at square one and beginning to feel homeless.

(By the way, there aren’t a lot of apartments or rental properties floating around in Small Town, South Dakota. We weren’t just being snooty.)

So at this point, we looked at a few more houses in that town, and none seemed to fit. That caused us to open our search to another neighboring town. I saw a couple of listings online and convinced Peter to look at them with me. Ironically enough, the placement of the town was further northwest but would not actually change the mileage for our commutes. He called or texted a friend who lived there, and in his dry, matter-of-fact manner, that friend said,

“I know a house that might be available.”

We toured it that night, and I took this picture from the car:

Our House

I was still seeing romantic, old farmhouses through rose-colored glasses, so this one didn’t take my breath away at first. It was nice and spacious, but it was outdated. As we walked through, I felt myself softening toward it with each new step. I couldn’t believe how big the rooms were; old farmhouses often have small rooms. I couldn’t believe how many closets and built-in storage options it had; old farmhouses may not have ANY bedroom closets! I couldn’t believe how many kids I could picture growing up in the upstairs bedrooms; old farmhouses tend to have second-story bedrooms with ceilings cut at 87 angles.

That’s what sold me. I still remember walking back down the wide set of stairs to the main level and picturing a room of girls on one side and boys on the other…

(Keep in mind, just because we could doesn’t mean we should – but that’s another post for another day.)

Our home was owned by one family, and they built it in 1950. Compared to many homes in rural South Dakota, that’s practically new! When the elderly parents passed away, their two daughters inherited it, and though they both live out of state, they had held onto it and maintained it for ten years. With the exception of their occasional visits, it sat empty and was cared for by Peter’s friend’s grandfather.

They were waiting for the right time and the right buyers to let it go.

We believe God was saving it just for us.

Because I was moving in from out of state and starting a new job, the paperwork for our loan took a bit longer than is typical. However, the ladies made special efforts to travel in to meet us, clean out a few more things that belonged to their family, and to get the ball rolling on the buying and selling process. They even allowed us to rent it for a few months before the closing so that I could move in prior to the wedding!

Being able to comfortably host my family for our wedding was such an answer to prayer.

On that first walk through, I was probably a bit annoying because I used my phone to take multiple pictures of every nook and cranny. I knew we would want to remember our first impressions, and because it wasn’t listed and available to view online, I wanted to be able to go back through and study it after we went home.

Now this is really beneficial because it means I have pictures to use in the before and after stages of making it our own… As a young couple and brand new homeowners, we haven’t exactly taken it by storm and turned it into any kind of HGTV renovation project, although knocking out walls to create an open-concept does sound appealing! We’ve mainly replaced a few appliances and set up a man cave/family room in the basement. However, I’ve been itching to put my own stamp on a few spaces, so over the last week or so (and with the help of my dad), I changed our bedroom.

On our first tour, it looked like this:

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Now it looks like this:

Our house

Our house

Our house

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Handmade sign from an old window - 4 ever & ever amen

I LOVE IT SO MUCH!

Most of our decorations were wedding gifts or have some other special meaning. My wedding bouquet and one of the bridesmaid bouquets sit on my dresser. One person gave us our invitation in a frame as a wedding gift, and I love displaying it as well. Peter has a small, framed copy of our vows on his dresser. The old window with the phrase, “4 ever & ever amen” was actually our wedding gift from the same friend and his wife who showed us this house.

I wasn’t sure about what we should place over the bed… We currently have Peter’s parents’ old dresser and chest, and we sprung for the king size mattress and frame without a headboard for now. Peter was adamant that I could not hang anything dangerously heavy right over our heads, so I felt canvas was our best option. I used blank canvas and letters from Walmart and some of our leftover paint to make our last name and initials in a simple way that I think I will like long-term.

The walls are gray, and the bedding is a bit more blue than it may appear in the picture. I love the way our oak floors pop out with these colors!

So now I’m just wondering… what project can I move to next?!?