We Met Online: Christmas Break

Well – here’s the deal…

As you know, I have been trying to tell the story of how Peter and I met online and God led us step-by-step to trust Him and join our lives together forever and for always.

Now I have officially run out of detailed notes and journals with a play-by-play of our visits and the ways our relationship continued to grow. Luckily, there won’t be too many more posts in this series. I visited South Dakota for Christmas break in December/January, Presidents’ Day Weekend in February, and spring break in March. (I’m starting to feel like things were a bit one-sided! I guess teachers really are blessed with our time off of work!) Then we got engaged in May (and you can already read about that and watch the video HERE), and I moved up in June. I feel like I can wrap all of this up over the next four weeks… Just be aware – the next few posts may feel a little more rough around the edges as we rely mostly on memory and pictures on our phones and on Facebook to retell our journey.

By the way, thanks for reading. There are probably only ten of you who have followed the whole story, but just as I tell my students, “Every writer needs a reader!” (Shameless plug: Feel free to share my blog with your friends or on Facebook. It’s fun to watch it grow!)

Thanks to the blessing that is Gmail (in which you basically never have to delete any emails), I was able to find my flight itinerary to remind me that I flew to Sioux Falls through Chicago on Saturday, December 22nd and stayed until Tuesday, January 1st. For anyone keeping track, that means that I once again used every spare minute of my school break to visit the man that was captivating my heart! (Also, because our relationship involved a lot of flying and was very EXPENSIVE, I decided to get as many days out of a trip as I possibly could!)

My family was incredibly supportive through it all… Instead of insisting that I spend the holidays with them, they knew it would be best for me to spend as much time as I could getting to know Peter. Growing up, I was often the girl at the sleepover who was tired of my friends by supper time, so my parents knew it was pretty significant that I wasn’t quickly growing tired this boy.

I guess it’s probably a good thing that I can’t remember every detail of this eleven-day visit…

“Ain’t nobody got time for that!”

So here are a few highlights:

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Peter had a wonderful idea to expose me to real sledding for the first time ever! While growing up in Alabama, we occasionally got snow a couple of times each year, but each snowfall typically resulted in a light dusting or possibly an inch or two that melted by lunchtime. (It still blows my mind here to see children suiting up in full snow-gear and playing on a mountain of snow and ice at recess. Anytime the meteorologists predicted snow in our area, schools would close to keep buses off the roads. I didn’t have close neighbors, so I don’t know much about playing in the snow with anyone except my immediate family.) Anyway – back to the story…

Peter took me to a hill on a minimal maintenance gravel road, which means it doesn’t really get taken care of or plowed. One side of the hill was much longer and steeper than one might expect on the South Dakota prairie, so we stuck to the bunny slope side with the gentle incline. I was still a little intimidated that I might crash and burn. Our dog Crockett (who I claimed as my own by that point) was pretty timid about jumping into or out of the bed of the truck, but he had fun running and exploring nearby us as we played. Peter was fearless and would take running starts to fly down the hill on his stomach. I started from a sitting position, pushed off with my hands, and kind of putt-putted along until I started curving and going off track. It was fun to try something new with Peter there to help and encourage me!

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I also tried to fully embrace and enjoy my white Christmas in other areas as well. Peter’s mom went all out with her Christmas decorations for me, and the old-fashioned large bulbs on the fence line by the horse barn were the icing on the cake! We saw a lot of snow in Des Moines, Iowa on the day after Christmas when we went for a day trip so I could meet Peter’s aunt and cousins. (I have no idea what’s up with my chicken legs in that picture… These southern legs don’t feel stable in snow yet.) I also made him take my picture with a huge pile of snow that had been plowed into piles in a grocery store parking lot. I wanted to make people at home think we got that much snow!

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We enjoyed a wonderful evening having dinner at Uncle Charles’ and Jan’s house. I really enjoy spending time with them because they have such calming spirits. We also went to the Strom family Christmas gathering and took a picture with Peter’s grandmother Josie.

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It was interesting to experience Christmas traditions that differ from my family. We usually do a relatively small Christmas and do very little on Christmas Eve. Peter’s family fully embraces Christmas Eve with a church service in the evening, driving to look at Christmas lights, eating egg bake that night, and opening gifts before bed. Dorothy gave me a very special jar that had been a gift to her years and years ago. Peter surprised me with an SDSU (South Dakota State University) t-shirt and a GORGEOUS and fancy pearl necklace. (I surprised him eight months later and wore it on our wedding day.)

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You know what else we got for Christmas? SICK. Extremely sick. Curl up in the bed for days and blow your nose in front of each other repeatedly sick. Go nowhere but to sleep on New Year’s Eve sick. Can’t you tell??? This is one of our worst pictures together, but you can see the necklace.

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And THIS is one of my favorite pictures of us. It’s so completely accurate.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! (even if it’s only September right now!)

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

This is the fifteenth 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!

Recent Goings On

I had a comforting conversation tonight with a wonderful friend that God knew I would need as we both embrace the role of outsiders attempting to blend in as South Dakotans. After years of school, school, and more school, she has recently become a Physical Therapist and entered the full-time job world. We were both lamenting our exhaustion and lacking motivation to do anything productive or helpful to others after spending hours being alert/knowledgeable/positive for patients and students all day. We asked each other, “How will we ever balance work with kids???”, and unfortunately, we did not receive any divine revelations with the answer.

Does anyone else worry that our society is missing something through all the hustle, bustle, and go-go-go?

I’m wondering why we haven’t fully embraced the concept of a daily “siesta.”

Peter and I have spent the last couple of months in a whirlwind, and I’m sure I will adamantly disagree in February when the temperature hasn’t risen above freezing in approximately 87 days, but I am almost looking forward to winter. What do you do when the sun is only up from 8-5, it’s literally below freezing (and sometimes below zero) outside, and there is snow on the ground?

You rest.

Amen.

(Hence the winter weight that became summer weight and will soon be fall weight. Yikes.)

So in light of the fact that we’ve been too busy with very little to show for it, here are a few glimpses into our recent life via the pictures on my phone.

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We sat in the rain at an outdoor Christian music festival.

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We got a fire pit, but it’s still in the box.

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I made really cool notebooks for my students.

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This is what I do all day.

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I found this on Twitter and needed it. It’s our only hope.

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Fall came for a brief and beautiful preview. (And supposedly western South Dakota got a winter storm. In early September. Crazy.)

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Yep. That’s the bottom of a shoe. I know it seems silly, but it’s really exciting to find great shoes at a consignment store and to discover that they look like they’ve never been worn.

Don’t worry. With these temps, I’m already breaking them in. :)

We Met Online: Thankful

After we met online, November 2012 was probably the best month of our dating relationship because we got to see each other twice… I visited South Dakota around Veteran’s Day, and Peter must’ve decided he liked me and really wanted to see me. He quickly booked his flight, and I was shocked to realize he loved me so much that he was willing to miss the holiday with his family AND fly practically across the country and back (from Sioux Falls to Denver to Huntsville) by himself to see me!

It’s amazing how much effort we put into dating! Peter actually flew after work on Tuesday during the week of Thanksgiving and arrived at the airport in Huntsville, AL around 10:30 that night. After we drove a little more than an hour to get to my parents’ house, we were excited to see each other but truly just ready for bed!

Bless his heart, I know he must have been exhausted, but the next day I put him back in a car and made him ride two hours northwest to spend the day with my mom and Granny in the area we affectionately call “North Alabama.” This actually encompasses the general area around Russellville, Muscle Shoals, and Florence, Alabama, and it’s where we lived until I was ten. Both of my mom’s parents grew up there, so we had lots of family and memories to share with Peter. This is where he got his first taste of delicious southern fried catfish, and he spent an afternoon talking with my grandfather’s brother about cattle and tracing some of our heritage back to Native Americans. We also took him to the cemetery named after our family where my grandfather was buried, drove by the home where my grandmother grew up, and showed him one of the most beautiful courthouses in the state – where my parents were married! (Wow, I miss historic southern architecture sometimes.)

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Our typical Thanksgiving traditions include staying in our pajamas at home with our immediate family and my grandmother, watching parts of the Macy’s parade, and eating things like ham (we aren’t turkey people), stuffing, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie with LOTS of Cool Whip. Unfortunately, Peter wasn’t so lucky… That year, my dad’s siblings and their families planned a get-together at my aunt’s house a couple of hours away, and it was the perfect opportunity to show off my new arm candy!

Peter was quiet and on his best behavior, and I’m sure it was quite overwhelming to be surrounded by so many loud and joking southerners all at once. Prior to meeting Peter, I never realized it was a distinguishing trait for our family, but joking, teasing, and heckling are our primary love languages. He was initiated quickly when my uncle with red hair, standing well over six feet tall and very “solid” build put his arm around Peter’s shoulder’s and let him know he better not hurt me! I’m sure he probably wanted to run or fight, but he held it together and put up with our shenanigans… In return, he got heaping platefuls of southern food including his first taste of fried okra!

On Friday, we took a little time to ourselves, and I took him to my favorite place in Blount County.

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I promise he was there… He was just taking the pictures. This is a spot on the river with a huge rock cliff and a historic covered bridge. I’d dreamed for years about going there on a romantic date, and I love that the Lord helped me wait and see that dream fulfilled with Peter.

After that, my mom and I indulged Peter and my dad in their manhood by going with them to see the new version of the movie Red Dawn. (I love that my father and my husband share a lot of similar interests and views.) As the credits began to roll, someone in the theater shouted in a thick southern accent, “‘Merica!” We walked out of there feeling like the testosterone was running high around us! My family enjoys going to movies around Thanksgiving and Christmas, and Peter and I kept that tradition alive and well as we went on Saturday to see Lincoln at a different theater. I guess we knew it would be about a month before we could see each other again, so we were making the most of it and going on as many dates as possible!

I had something up my sleeve for Sunday, and Peter had no idea what we were doing or why… I wanted to take him to a place in our county called Palisades Park. It is a gorgeous place set up on a small mountain with a scenic view out over the land. My family has been to countless family reunions there, and I have always loved the landscape as well as the lodges that look like log cabins. I know he liked it, but the part that took Peter by surprise was when I told him I hoped to someday get married there… I bet his blood pressure went up, but he stayed very calm and content as we walked around and I showed him that I wanted a small, intimate ceremony standing outside on the mountain followed by a casual reception in the large cabin nearby. We had only known each other since the end of May, met in person for the first time in July, officially started our relationship in September, and by November, I was sharing some of my biggest dreams with this South Dakota boy. I was smitten.

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(Sidenote: We actually did try to make plans to get married there during the following summer, but none of the dates worked for all of his family to travel. Oh well! You win some… You lose some… At least I got the boy!)

That night, we soaked in another church service at Brook Hills before having a wonderful dinner at Jim N’ Nick’s with some of my best friends.

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On Monday, we had a lazy morning before we had to make another dreaded trip to an airport to say goodbye. On the way there, I took him to one of my favorite local hole-in-the-wall restaurants.

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I love the memory of sitting across from him in a booth by the front window when the waitress came to ask for our drink orders. All Peter said was, “I’ll have a Coke,” and the waitress exclaimed, “You’re not from here, are you?!?” I’ve tried to explain that he should have elongated his “o” sound into two drawn-out syllables to fit in. At least he didn’t call it “pop”! :)

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

This is the fourteenth 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: Taking a Week Off

Hi friends.

So… For some people, blogging is a full-time job. For me, it’s a hobby that I have to balance with a full-time job. That can be tricky, especially on weeks when we get Monday off, and we don’t seem to ever know what day it is after that.

In honor of our first anniversary (if you missed that post, go here) and the holiday weekend, I am giving myself a week off. I’ll be back next Wednesday with a post about Peter’s Thanksgiving visit to Alabama.

Thanks for understanding!

Happy Anniversary! A Year in Review…

Married Saturday, August 31, 2013: Started on a great note with lots of laughter.

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September: “Aww, Mom! I love being married! It’s like everyday when I’m leaving work, I’m so excited because I know I’m coming home to him!” Road trip to Chickfila, Laura Ingalls Wilder homestead, and Cabela’s for the win. We found a church!

October: Hunting and harvest. Enough said. We officially went from paying rent to paying on a mortgage. I bombed a surprise for my birthday.

November: Turns out balancing a full-time job with cooking and cleaning at home is no fun. Peter got two deer and filled our freezer… Hamburger Helper, here we come! First holiday guest – Logan came for Thanksgiving. I got a sinus infection and realized I love our town even more because I can walk to the doctor’s office, have an appointment, walk to the pharmacy, pick up a prescription, and walk home in less than an hour.

December: COLD. Kidnapped Peter for a birthday getaway. Christmas in Arkansas felt a little like going home without the busy schedule of trying to visit 214 people in two days.

January: Cold. Started growing friendships with people from church for New Year’s Eve (technically December) and played the pen game at a birthday party. Painted the man cave and got an awesome couch so we would be ready for the Super Bowl!

February: Cold. We got a new DISHWASHER! Caught our first stomach virus at the same time. Then I was in Alabama over Valentine’s Day. It was a romantic month.

March: Cold. We heard the ground was frozen two feet below the surface. We watched a lot of The Middle on DVD. We worked, we slept, we ate Hamburger Helper. That’s real love.

April: Still pretty cold, but a day in the 40’s feels balmy. Spent Easter weekend with my family in Indiana and took Peter to Lake Michigan. Sharing parts of my childhood visits to my grandparents’ house with him was so fun. Life’s just better now that we live it together.

May: Out of school in the middle of May, high in the 50’s – welcome to summer break! I basically became a cowgirl, literally, as I learned how to work cattle and move mamas and babies to summer pasture. I love our life here.

June: Helped with VBS and realized 2-4 year olds aren’t any more terrifying than kindergarteners. Logan came for our best weekend visit ever. Daddy came and helped me spruce up our master bedroom. A rodeo and bowling with my two favorite men in the world? Don’t mind if I do.

July: Had a quick getaway trip to The Cities for a wedding and a Twins Game. Plus, the Terry Redlin Art Center rules. Then jumped ship and went to Alabama for two weeks. Favorite people and yummy food, but I missed that boy.

August: Finally got a little hot. Mom came to visit a week after I returned from Alabama. Then back to the grind… School started. Oh boy. Here comes my tiredness and aversion to cooking/dishes again! Oh, and happy anniversary! WE MADE IT! Even more fun and laughter. Best friends.

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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.

Auburn Game

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Auburn Engagement

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.

Hunting

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!