Category Archives: Our Love Story

The Gift of Aluminum and Letters

Did you know that aluminum is one of the traditional gifts for a 10th anniversary?

(Well, technically, it’s tin, with the modern version being aluminum).

I had no clue.

So, when Shaun handed me this on the morning of our anniversary last week and informed me of the above scintillating fact, I was intrigued.

book

If you’ve been reading for a while (or follow along on Instagram or FB), and especially if you read the love story series I did a few years back, then you probably recognize the original of that shot of Shaun and me as this one  from our wedding:

the dress

As interested as I was, I was a little surprised at the gift because I assumed that it was a photo album, which is nice and all, but seemed out of character for Shaun and for us as a couple.

But then, I opened it up and read the crazy-sweet note I mentioned last week, telling me all the things that he loves about me even more now that we’ve been married for a decade, and as I read, he started to explain how he had saved all of our emails we sent each other during our courtin’ days on his computer’s hard drives, even after the machines had died.

And I started to get really excited because here’s the thing:  we’re not particularly sentimental people. I’m terrible about keeping ticket stubs or other memorabilia, commemorating special events.

But those letters? They represented hours upon hours of thought and effort and, well, love. Weeks before we ever had our first date, the groundwork had been laid for me to fall for this clever, funny, smart guy who cared about grammar and felt as much appreciation for a well-crafted sentence as I did.

I looked forward to those emails every single day. And I have never been sadder about losing any memory than I was when my old Juno email account crashed and wouldn’t let me access my backlog of messages.

Shaun felt the same way, so he combed through his old hard drives for hours, until he had almost despaired. Then finally, he stumbled upon the entire cache of messages in some remote, weird place (oh, technology, you blessing and curse, you) and proceeded to print out every last one he could find and slip them into protective plastic sleeves, and bind them all together in a book.

Even though I’m not much of a crier, I freely admit to tearing up when I started reading our words from 11 1/2 years ago–the words that were the early foundation for our marriage to come and the kind of couple that we are now.

It was the most thoughtful, perfect 10th anniversary gift, and, although I haven’t made it through them all yet, I’ve loved reading the ones I’ve gotten to so far, and I can’t wait to read the rest.

In fact, it makes me want to start writing my husband letters again, so we can make another book in 15 years.

Anybody know the metal for 25 year anniversaries?

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Feature Friday FREE-FOR-ALL {#23} + A Love Story {Part 5}—THE Ring

EDIT: I totally forgot to mention that I’m over at Primitive and Proper today sharing a brand new project I just finished for the twins’ room! Be sure to stop by and tell the uber-talented Cassie that I said hi! : )

So, are you sick of hearing about our love story yet?

(If you missed out on any of the first 4 installments, you can click to go to Parts 1, 2, 3, and 4).

If you are tired of it, I promise you only have to suffer through one more day.

If you want more…well, just keep reading the blog because you’re sure to catch glimpses of the ongoing saga as it continues to unravel unfold.

I promised the story of THE ring today, but while that sounds oh-so-Tolkienesque, there is {happily} no Mount Doom in our version of the story—just a whole lot of romance, thoughtfulness, and old wooden swings (because, after all, who doesn’t love a good wooden swing?).

First off, let’s take a gander at the The Ring in question, shall we?

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You’ve seen it many times before in a multitude of Try-it Tuesday hand-shots and Wardrobe Wednesday hand-on-hip poses, but I just wanted to give you a more official shot before I said anything else. 

And that’s all I will say about the ring for the moment.

Because what ring story would be complete without the proposal story behind it?

I will try to hit the highlights and let your imagination fill in the rest, but I’m not promising I won’t get a bit caught up in nostalgia.

Shaun proposed on October 6, 2005, which just so happened to be my 22nd birthday.

But in typical Shaun fashion, he kept me guessing all day long until finally, when the day was almost through, he put me out of my misery actually popped that oh-so-important question.

We headed to Shreveport, LA for the day sometime around midmorning and he started out the day by giving me a beautiful necklace (that I ended up wearing with my wedding dress) in a pretty little box that contained a scrap of paper with a line of poetry—an ode to beauty (remember my “pet name” from yesterday?).

On our way, we stopped at a gorgeous rose garden to eat lunch, and while we were lounging on one of the benches enjoying the view, he slipped another box into my hand—more jewelry and another line of the poem.

Once we got to Shreveport, we wandered through the Red River Arts Festival, and yet again, I found myself with a box in my hand (as I was reaching back for his) with yet another piece of pretty and another line of poetry.

We watched an IMAX movie when it was just too unbearably hot to stay outside any longer (Oct. 6, and 102 degrees…welcome to the South).

And at some point, yet another box appeared.

Now, during all of this, I couldn’t help but hope that this was it.

But he was giving me enough jewelry to last me a lifetime, and it was my birthday after all, so I spent half the day enjoying a fabulously relaxing time with my love and the other half mentally repeating: “Just be happy with this, Abbie. Enjoy the moment. You don’t want to be disappointed at the end of it all after such a lovely day.”

We found a Goodwill and shopped around for some vintage clothes to wear to my upcoming swing dance-themed birthday party (we both found the perfect outfits, by the way), which you can see here:

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And the pretty things + poetry just kept coming.

Lest you get the wrong idea, these were not particularly pricey pieces but instead thoughtfully chosen tokens that he had found and thought looked like me (he was right; I genuinely loved every one).

And the poetry?

Well, that was free since it came straight from his creative mind.

Finally, he took me to dinner at a fantastic little locally owned Italian restaurant with just the right amount of ambience.

 

Here we are, 4 years later when we went back for our anniversary.

I do believe there was one more box at dinner, and by that point, I had completely talked myself out of a proposal.

“It’s too much. He’s being too wonderful. You can’t expect anything else on top of this, Abbie. He’s just making your birthday extra-special since it’s the first one since you started dating.”

Isn’t it funny how we can practically get clobbered over the head with something, but if we’re scared to believe it, we can still talk ourselves out of it?

By the (hour-long) ride home, I had changed my mental tune completely, though.

About 10 minutes into the trip, we could see lightning in the distance, and Shaun began to rub my thumbnail (he was holding my hand) with his own thumb—back and forth and back and forth.

He wasn’t saying much either.

One of the things that had completely thrown me for a loop was how calm he was all day.

After all, if he were going to propose, wouldn’t he have been jittery…jumped the gun…just blurted it all out right then and there?

Who manages to stay relaxed and keep his cool (in 102 degrees, no less) when he’s planning on spending 12 straight hours with the girl he loves not asking her to marry him only to do it at the very end?

My husband, that’s who.

But when he saw that lightning, he totally showed his “tell.”

And I’m so glad he did.

Because for 50 minutes, I just let him practically rub a hole in my thumbnail while I grinned into the darkness of the car and tried to keep my feet from doing a (completely obvious) happy dance on the floorboard.

Fortunately for both of us, the rain held off, and as we were pulling into the driveway, all I could think was: “I hope he takes me to the swing.”

“The swing” is an old, chippy wooden bench swing in my parents’ side yard, and you would think because of my hope of being proposed to there that it was a place we frequented.

But it really wasn’t.

We had only sat there a handful of times, but every one held a particular significance—like the time I sobbed my heart out over something-or-other, and he just held me and stroked my hair while he rocked us back and forth.

He had no particular reason to know that I would prefer that swing.

And yet, as soon as we got out of the car, he asked me if I’d like to go for a walk (what do you think I said?) and proceeded to lead me straight to it.

Much talking followed, and while I remember some of it, it’s all wrapped up in such a haze of euphoria that I couldn’t repeat most of it if you paid me (feel free to offer, though).

I do remember that he started listing things he loved about me, both physical and otherwise, until he got to my ring finger, which he said was much too bare for his taste (I have never, I am sure, had such an enormous, goofy grin on my face).

And then he dropped to his knee and said the words I’d been hoping against hope for all day, and I launched myself at his neck (and said yes, of course).

And then he showed me the ring, which was the most breathtakingly beautiful and perfect for me piece of jewelry ever created.

Wait, scratch that.

What really happened was this: once I finally finished squeezing the life out of him, he said, “I’m so glad you didn’t ask about the ring.”

And I said, “Okay.” (What can I say? I’m not the best orator when I’m overwhelmingly ecstatic).

“Because there kind of isn’t one,” he said.

And I said, “Okay.” (My eloquence knows no bounds).

And then he told me the rest of the story.

He had custom-designed my ring—been working on it for ages, but there had been a snag in the mounting process, and the jeweler creating it was in California, so it couldn’t be here for a few more days.

Instead, the jeweler had sent him a very pretty white gold + CZ to keep my ring-finger warm while I waited.

Mind you, I couldn’t have possibly cared less, but you better believe I was looking forward to seeing the real ring just the same.

When it came in, I met Shaun at his house (right before we headed to that swing dance party I mentioned), and he proposed all over again (me: same answer).

So, not only did I get not one but TWO proposals, but I also got the coolest, most unique, and gorgeous ring I’ve ever seen.

So, what makes it so special (besides the fact that the man I love made it just for me)?

It doesn’t just look pretty.

It tells the gospel.

Shaun specifically chose two tiny pear-shaped diamonds to flank the center stone so that he could incorporate ichthus (or “Jesus fish”) into the design.

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Can you see it?

And then, to tie it all together, he designed the actual stone’s setting to be a Star of David.

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He told me that it was the story of salvation all rolled into one—the Star of David representing the Old Testament and the Bible’s promised Messiah who would take the sin of the world on his shoulders… and the ichthus, which are generally recognized as symbols that represent Jesus, to show the New Testament fulfillment of that promise in the Son of God who died (and rose again!) so that you and I could be reconciled to our God.

(And I was worried about dating a new Christian).

To say that I was astounded by the insight and thought that my future husband had put into the ring I will wear until the day I die is more than an understatement.

It’s a declaration of the respect and admiration that I have for everything about this man whom God entrusted to me to love.

As I said at the beginning, Shaun’s not perfect, but God is, and he knew that my husband was perfect for me.

The End.

(though, not really).

Whew!

I was hoping to get that all in in fewer words, but they just kept coming.

Thank you so much for reading along and allowing me to share and revisit some of the sweetest moments in my love story.

It’s been a wonderful way to pass a week without my husband (who gets back tomorrow! Yippeee!).

And now, if you showed up for the party and hung around this long, I thought I’d show you a few of my favorite links from last week’s shindig…

Like this charming DIY Potting Table from Northern Cottage

And this adorable owl-themed nursery from Delectable Home.

And this entire ensemble from Maker of Shoes featuring that great bright floral dress.

And these scrumptious-looking Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cupcakes from Feeding My Temple.

And this clever Mod Podge shoe makeover from Design, Dining + Diapers.

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And this easy-peasey, cutie-patootie Corkboard Tic Tac Toe by Hating Martha.

And these cheerful spray-painted mason jars from Alderberry Hill

You guys have blown me away yet again with your creativity!

Feel free to grab a button from the sidebar if you’ve been featured!

And now it’s your turn again!

Same “rules” as always:

It’s a FREE-FOR-ALL!

If you’ve blogged about it, I want to see it!

So…

1. Link to your specific post URL instead of your blog URL (no limit on the number of linkies, so add as many as you like!)

2. Grab a party button so that others can join in the fun! (Text link-backs are great too! : ))

five days five ways  feature friday free for all

3. Consider visiting/commenting on at least 2 of the other links. You never know what kind of inspiration you might miss out on if you don’t. Plus we all love to read words of encouragement! (I know I do!)

4. PLEASE, no shops or giveaways!

5. If we aren’t already friends, would you do me the honor of getting regular post updates here?:

or you can:

subcribe for email updates,

and/or join our Facebook page!

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5 Things Thursday: A Love Story {Part 4}—The Rest of the Story

So, you know by now how we ended up on our first date, which took place January 28, 2004, and if you were paying attention when I told you our wedding date, then you know that we got married exactly 16 months and 5 days later on June 2nd, 2005.

To say that those 16 months were pretty much smooth sailing is actually a fairly accurate (if cliché) statement.

We never fought (my husband is incapable of engaging in a “real” fight; It’s just not how he rolls; I, on the other hand…ahem).

We never broke up (more on that in a moment).

And we pretty much have fallen more and more in love with each other ever since that first date.

But since those broad sweeping overviews leave so much out, I thought I’d share a few interesting tidbits with you to help add a little texture to the big picture.

1.

I almost broke up with Shaun on his birthday (although the date had never really occurred to me until just now).

Cold, I know.

But his birthday happened to occur only 4 short days after our first date (and we’d seen each other every day in between…intense, right?), so if the break-up was going to happen, it needed to be early before either one of us got too attached.

At least that’s what I told myself.

So, why—after all of the gushing I’ve been doing about how perfect he is for me—would I even consider letting him out of my sight much less ending the relationship?

Answer (prepare to scratch your heads): he was too perfect.

Seriously, people.

He was so nice.

Much nicer than I am.

Don’t get me wrong.

I am nice.

And not just if you’re nice to me first.

I genuinely like people, so it’s kind of hard not to be nice to most of them.

But Shaun was so good and sweet and calm.

And I can be a bit…um…fiery.

And I thought, “Oh no. What if my personality’s too strong for him? I can’t respect a guy who isn’t at least as strong, in a complementary way, in the personality department, and I can’t marry a guy I don’t respect!”

It just so happened that his birthday coincided with Super Bowl Sunday that year, and we were on our way to a Twenty-Somethings Super Bowl party when I worked up the nerve to do it.

So I told him how much I liked him and how I really wanted this to work, but…

And he said, “But what?”

And, after a bit of waffling, I basically just blurted out my fears that I would bulldoze him.

Have you ever seen Blast from the Past?

If not, a quick recap is in order.

Brendon Fraser plays Adam, a 35-year-old man who emerges into society after being raised by his ultra-geeky mom and dad in—get this—a fallout shelter.

He does a hilarious job of conveying the wide-eyed wonder and utter naiveté of someone who’s never had contact with the real world.

And, of course, he falls head over heels for the first girl he meets, even though she’s waaaaay too worldly for him and not a good fit at all.

Well, although that setup has practically nothing to do with Shaun’s and my situation, there is one moment when Adam suddenly switches from ultra-sweet boy to confident man, and everything about him—his posture, his voice, his expression—changes so completely…and it’s a great moment.

And I think of that moment every time I remember the time I almost dumped my future husband because he was “too nice.”

Because as soon as I voiced my concerns, Shaun said something like the following: “Listen. I really like you. I think you’re amazing, in fact. But I have opinions. And I have no problem whatsoever voicing them when the occasion calls for it. And I think we can be really great together. So, if that sounds like something you’re interested in… Great. Me too. If not, I understand. But don’t worry about me. When I want to say something, I’ll say it.”

And he said the whole thing with just the right mix of manly confidence and kindness that my pulse got all fluttery and I couldn’t remember for the life of me why I’d ever been worried in the first place.

And I’ve never worried since.

2.

You long-time readers already know this, but the newbies might be interested to know that we didn’t kiss until the pastor told us to on our wedding day.

What I haven’t told you, though, is that I wrote and recorded a song for his birthday (which we played at the wedding) after we were engaged.

I burned it to a cd, then slipped it in his car so that he would find it on his way to work that morning.

He called me as soon as he listened to it and told me that it was a good thing I wasn’t there when he heard it because our no-kissing policy would have flown right out the window! : )

3.

We lived together before we got married.

That may sound a bit odd coming from a couple who didn’t even kiss until the altar, but it’s true!

Shaun already owned a house, but we wanted to buy land in the country, so he put his house up for sale, and it sold within a month.

Then, he moved into the 3rd story dormer of my parents’ house (my brother and I occupied the 2nd story) and lived there for 7 of the 8 months we were engaged. 

And while it may sound a little weird, I honestly think it was one of the best things that could have happened to us since we were able to work through a lot of newlywed “kinks” before we were ever newlyweds.

4.

I hope your gag reflex isn’t too strong because this next part may make you a little queasy.

We have pet names for each other.

Mine is Boo (short for Beautiful…he gave it to me on his birthday…the same day I almost broke up with him).

His is Alby (a derivative of our last name…yeah, I think the one he gave me is better too).

In fact, it’s felt really strange to type “Shaun” over and over again this week, since these are not just our pet names for each other, but the only names we use when talking directly to each other.

5.

Valentine’s Day came two short weeks after our first date, and Shaun gave me a ring with a paraphrase from the book of Ruth that said, “I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine.”

(Even he shakes his head now at his nerve).

You know how I said, in Part 2, that, after my previous relationship, I wasn’t sure how I would know when someone was right?

Well…I knew.

And I wore that ring proudly, right up until the moment when he replaced it with something even better.

…which I’ll show you tomorrow, when this week-long love-fest concludes.

P.S. Some of you have already done it, but it would pretty much make my day if you’d share some fun little tidbits about your own love stories in the comments. I would love (ha!) to read them!

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Wardrobe Wednesday: A Love Story {Part 3}—THE Dress

After triple-checking with God that the universe couldn’t possible explode into a 100 million infinitesimal pieces if I said yes to a date, I finally said…

“Sure.”

Sure?” Shaun repeated, and all of a sudden he didn’t sound so sure.

“Yeah, sure,” I said (are you groaning yet? I am).

A couple of things to note about this momentous first date of ours:

1) I skipped my Thursday night care group (Bible study) to go to it (and the universe still didn’t explode), but despite the fact that it was comprised of 5 of my closest girlfriends, I didn’t tell anybody but our care group leader why I wouldn’t be there, and I swore her to silence. I’m weird like that. Normal girls call all their best friends and squeal, right? Right.

2) I showed up late…no good reason. Just had a sudden fit of, “I hate this outfit! My hips are HUGE! What was I thinking wearing this?” followed by a flurry of wardrobe changes, which eventually led me back to the original “huge hips” outfit I’d chosen—dark-rinse trouser jeans and a black peasant top with cream embroidery + the world’s most goodness-awful “platform clogs.” *shudder*

3) Shaun told me later he wasn’t even positive I knew we were going on a real date (I can’t imagine why he would be confused. After all, I only paused for 5 minutes before using quite possibly the world’s least romantic word for yes ever: “Sure.” I’m still smacking myself in the forehead).

4) Even though he wasn’t sure what I was expecting, he still brought flowers (two long stemmed crimson roses that were waiting for me, crisscrossed over my plate). Now that’s a confident man.

So, where did we go?

Olive Garden.

Not very original, right?

But as with most things that Shaun plans, even the most conventional-seeming choices usually have a twist.

You see, he’d been faithfully attending practically all of the Twenty-Somethings events I’d been planning, and he knew that, sometimes, because I coordinated them, I wasn’t able to fully participate.

Take, for example, the video scavenger hunt for which I wrote all of the clues.

It was a blast to experience vicariously. But I still missed out on the actual hunt part since I already knew all the answers.

Shaun noticed (and he liked my clues), so to make up for it, he made our first date a mini mystery-hunt.

Which means that he sent me clues, and I unraveled them to reveal our dinner location.

Please, tell me you love him as much as I do now (in a completely platonic and innocuous—remember, I do BODYCOMBAT and am hopped up on pregnancy hormones—kind of way, of course : )).

And since he wanted me to actually appear at this first date of ours, he wisely chose a well-known chain restaurant (even though, at heart, we are both hole-in-the-wall, non-chainers) so I could be sure to get the place right.

Thank goodness I did!

Otherwise, he might’ve assumed I was considerably dumber than he’d first thought, never asked for a second date, and then we would have never gotten to take this picture:

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Or this one:

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Or any of the rest of these, for that matter:

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We got married at the private estate of some friends of ours. As a souvenir, they gave us a copy of American Dream Homes magazine…because their house was in it that year.

Yes, it was magical.

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So magical, in fact, that they had polar bears (that the husband had hunted) in their entryway. For some reason, I love this shot—Shaun holding the water at the ready to relieve my “I’m wearing a 60 lb. beaded dress, it’s 85 degrees at 9 PM, and I’m about to spontaneously combust!” expression.

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This one is a fave too. I look so incandescently happy. (Because I was!)

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I still really love our cake, which I designed (but did not make!…hey, that rhymed).

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Four of the five Bible study girls, whom I never told that I was dating Shaun, by the way. 

They just figured it out when they saw us holding hands 3 weeks later. Because they’re smart like that.

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Me with my bro. I told you we’re tight! (My bouquet turned out almost nothing like I expected it to, but that was fine by me because it was about 10X better!).

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This one just makes me giggle because a) I look like a goofy-poof, and b) I’m faking the throw (that’s my left hand).

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When I actually threw it, it almost sailed all the way over the heads of all those girls you see about a 1/2 mile behind me (I always did have a strong softball arm). Bonus points if you can spot the bouquet!

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Ready to run for it (I really loved the antique lace over the gold underlay of my dress…which I scored—including that gorgeous lace veil—for $300; yup, even then I was bargain-obsessed).

…………………………………………………………………………………….

So, have I spoiled the ending with all the pictures?

Oh, wait. I guess not since you already know we’re married, huh?

But I’m not quite finished.

I’ll be back tomorrow for 5 Things Thursday with some fun tidbits about our courtship, and then Friday, I’ll tell you about the ring.

See you soon!

Linking up with The Pleated Poppy.

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Try-it Tuesday: A Love Story {Part 2}—Testing the waters

One of the job requirements of my lofty (volunteer) position as Social Event Coordinator for Twenty-Somethings involved sending out email announcements and reminders for the various group outings that I organized.

And I’m pretty much incapable of just saying: “We’re going to the symphony Friday night at 8. Get me your money before then, please.”

Instead, in true Abbie-form, I wrote paragraphs (riddled with parentheses, of course), told corny jokes, made punny references, and just generally entertained myself (and maybe three other people) every time I sent out a reminder.

Imagine something very similar to most of my blog posts in (slightly) abbreviated email form, and you’ve got a pretty decent idea of it, I think.

Apparently, one of the three people I entertained was Shaun.

Honestly, although he claims to have thought me beautiful from the beginning, I don’t know if I truly would have captured his interest if it hadn’t been for those emails.

You could always tell the people that actually read them all the way through because they didn’t just RSVP, they played along with my little jokes or told me they wanted to come but couldn’t even remember what time anything was because they got so distracted by the random, unrelated story that I wrote at the bottom of the email.

But Shaun did one better.

He wrote stories back.

I would give just about anything to still have the email that he sent me after the bum-tagging, ping-pong trouncing events of that New Year’s Eve party I mentioned in Part 1 yesterday.

I sent out some sort of reminder about some event or another a few days after, and he responded with something funny and flirtatious to which I responded with some baiting reference to having beaten him in ping pong…

To which HE responded with a narrative about what really happened that night and how it had all been an elaborate ruse to lull me into thinking that I had won, fair and square, when, in reality, he’d been slacking off (after all, he’d tagged my bum me prisoner in Capture the Flag, so he had to let me win at something).

Uh huh.

I can’t remember all the details, but I remember grinning so hard the entire time I read (and reread) it that my brother walked up and said, “What’s with you? You’re smiling like an absolute goofball.”

And I looked up and said, “I’m reading an email from Shaun, and it’s hilarious.”

To which Shae replied, “Shaun? Really?”

You see, until you get to know Shaun, you might assume that he’s a bit on the quiet side, maybe even shy.

He’s not really.

But he is an observer more than a contributor—at least initially—to most large social situations, which aren’t his favorite…although you rapidly discover that he has plenty to contribute if you bother to listen.

He’s also very kind, which I’m a huge fan of, but I’m most attracted to kindness with a heaping helping of sarcasm and wit.

I had witnessed the kindness factor already (just a small example: a few months before, he had helped my dad and my brother with some building projects around our house simply because he had construction experience from working with his dad and wanted to lend a hand).

But the cheeky wit surprised me.

Intrigued me.

Excited me.

Because I love words (please tell me this isn’t news).

And any man who skillfully and humorously manipulates the written word, especially, get high marks in my book.

Shae took a long look at my profile (I’d already turned back to the computer screen to read Shaun’s email one more time) and said, “Well, aren’t you popular?”

Thing is, I kind of was.

There were two other guys that I knew were interested in/pursuing me at the time.

But this was hardly normal for me.

You see, I’m what my friends, family, and even Shaun call “intimidating” to guys.

I had/have a strong personality.

And growing up, I never pretended to be dumber than I was and especially not dumber than the guy sitting next to me, no matter how cute he was.

In fact, I tended to assert my intelligence by using bigger-than-strictly-necessary words and other such geekiness.

And if I could beat a guy at something—sports, spelling, spitting (okay, not that last one; it was just alliterative)—I did.

I cringe a little now at my own arrogance.

After all, not pretending to be dumber than you are and making sure that a boy knows how smart you (think) you are are two very different things…and I’m pretty sure I erred on the side of the latter more than once.

No wonder I only ever dated one guy before Shaun.

But still, somehow I had managed to catch the eye of three intelligent men, and to say that this girl didn’t have a clue is an understatement of colossal proportions.

There was just one problem (okay, way more than that, actually) with all this male attention.

Each guy had one major flaw—a deal-breaker, in fact.

And Shaun’s was the most deal-breaking of all.

You see, he wasn’t a Christian.

And I had asked Jesus to forgive my sins, come live in my heart, and be Lord of life when I was five-years-old.

I remember it with slow-motion clarity, even though my 9-year-old know-it-all of a brother was convinced that I couldn’t possibly have known what I was doing.

And I never doubted once that anyone I might marry would have a similarly long history with Jesus.

It had practically nothing to do with marrying someone of the same “religion.”

And it had almost everything to do with wanting to marry the kind of man who could lead me and our future family in a way that would glorify God and challenge me spiritually.

A non-Christian, or even a new Christian for that matter, wasn’t going to cut it.

And yet I found myself emailing back against my better judgment, anticipating his responses, sending out more Twenty-Somethings reminders than absolutely necessary (composed with even more obsessive attention than usual to wording and humor) in hopes of further piquing his interest.

I asked him what the “T” stood for in the “S.T.+ last name” that made up his email address.

He conjectured that the E in my middle name might possibly stand for “Ermintrude.”

And I just kept grinning like a fool at my computer screen.

And then one of the guys who was interested in me told me some intriguing news.

Apparently, on January 5, 2004 (I think I have that right), Shaun had had an encounter with Jesus—had acknowledged him as Savior, had asked him to forgive his sins and bring purpose and transformation to his life, just like I had 16 years before.

I was genuinely happy for him, but I don’t remember thinking that it necessarily had much to do with me.

And then one day—by some bizarre turn of events—I found myself headed to a racquetball date with my brother…Shaun…and both of the other interested guys.

It felt a little like playing the dating game, while wearing wind-shorts and carrying a racquet.

And all I could think was: Dang, Contestant #3 (that would be Shaun) has the sexiest legs I’ve ever seen, and I sure wish #’s 1 and 2 and especially that pesky brother of mine would—poof!—disappear.

He made a reference to Pride and Prejudice, for crying out loud.

And then all I could think was: Lord, the very existence of a guy with his legs, smile, sense of humor, and at least a passing knowledge of one of the greatest romances ever written is proof that you love me.

I started daydreaming about his asking me out.

Problem was, I never got past the asking part.

Because I wasn’t into dating right then.

I had used the, “I am so flattered you asked, but I don’t feel God leading me to date anybody right now,” line on at least two guys in the previous year, and it was true enough, if somewhat convenient since I hadn’t actually been interested in either one.

The only other relationship I’d had lasted almost 3 years, 7 months of which we were engaged.

It was the kind of friendship/romance that left me wondering, “If he wasn’t the one, and I know he wasn’t, even though we seemed so compatible in so many ways, then how will I know who is the one?”

Deep musings for a 21-year-old, I know.

But I’ve never taken romance lightly.

And I still hadn’t decided what I would say if Shaun asked me out when a number I didn’t recognize popped up on my cellphone one evening at Subway where my mom and I were waiting in line to order the foot-long turkey on Italian herbs and cheese that we always ordered when we went to Subway.

I usually didn’t answer numbers I didn’t know, but this time I did, with a tentative, “Hello?” that I’m surprised he was able to hear over the din of the restaurant.

A voice I could barely make out on the other end said, “Hello, is this Ermintrude?”

For a split second, my brain stalled.

And then it all clicked, and I let out the kind of laugh that would make Julia Roberts proud and which made every last person in Subway stop mid-bite to stare at me.

Not that I cared.

I was too busy flirting with the guy of my dreams.

But then the dream-guy came right out and said, “I was wondering if I could take you out to dinner sometime.”

And for the second time in 3 minutes, my mind went completely blank.

I don’t know how long I actually paused, though Shaun says it felt like an hour, but I do know I was praying like a maniac while trying to reason through every possible pro and con of saying yes or no (neurotic much?) until I finally came up with…

Oh, but wouldn’t you love to know.

But I’m not going to tell you.

Not until tomorrow anyway.

{Insert evil chuckle}

See you then!

P.S. If it sounds like I’m ragging on my brother in this post, take a minute to think about how many times his name comes up in just one story.  Yeah. We’re tight.

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Move-it Monday: A Love Story {Part 1}—The First Encounter

Well, I’m back from Chicago (although the suburb of Schaumburg is where we spent the majority of our time…close enough), and it was heavenly.

I mean, Chi-town itself was pretty great—my third favorite city ever, I think (behind Paris, France and Sydney, Australia).

But it had been such a very long time since my husband and I had spent anything longer than maybe 4 hours together without any distractions, any sticky little fingers pawing at our legs, or any projects to hash out that I found myself reveling, not in the location, but in the presence of the man whom God hand-picked to be my husband (a fact that I don’t doubt for a moment since, although Shaun is not perfect, he is absolutely perfect for me).

We held hands like a couple of schmoopy teenagers.

We sneaked kisses on the train.

We sat on the same side of the booth at every restaurant we went to (the better to continue the hand-holding, even if though it considerably increased the chances of major neck-cricks).

And we even insisted on wedging ourselves into the same little section of the revolving glass doors that seemed to be everywhere we went—while holding hands, of course—which made Shaun take small, shuffling steps and me constantly bump into his back and both of us giggle (don’t tell him I said that).

There is not (and has never been) a single other person on the planet with whom I simply enjoy being more.

It doesn’t matter what we do.

It doesn’t matter why we do it.

If he’s there, I’m happy.

He gets me…100%.

He sees me at my worst (and best, whenever that happens to be).

And he loves me.

Unconditionally. Irrevocably.

And I feel the same way (though it’s so much more than a feeling).

And so, in honor of the last 7 years of “wedded bliss” (our wedding date was June 2nd, 2005, and it really has been pretty stinkin’ great), I thought I’d share a little about the origin of our love story this week.

Speaking of the beginning, Move-it Monday is actually a fairly fitting theme to start out, considering that our first remembered encounter happened on a volleyball court.

It wasn’t love at first sight.

Heck, it wasn’t even flirt at first sight.

I was 20-years-old.

My hair was pulled back in a long, curly ponytail, with an extra side of frizz and sweat.

I remember that I was wearing an ultra-flattering, boxy, primary green Tatum Eagles (the mascot of the high school where I was teaching at the time) t-shirt.

I was the Twenty-Somethings (our church’s college/young adult group) social event coordinator, which is a fancy way of saying that I put together our various outings and get-togethers, but I wasn’t in charge of Friday night volleyball, which had a core of regulars and as well as a regular flux of newbies and sometimers.

It wasn’t my turf.

So, even though I remember that there was a new guy named Shaun there that night, I’m not sure we even spoke.

I was too busy trying to get my unpredictable overhead serve under control.

Pretty romantic stuff, huh?

Oh, but wait.

It gets better.

Much better.

Especially when you fast-forward three months to the New Year’s Eve party at my parents’ house where Shaun—whom I still didn’t know very well—managed to plant a hand squarely on my hindquarters, all in the name of taking me prisoner in a game of Capture the Flag (that’s what he claims, anyway).

That’s also the night that I trounced him in multiple games of ping-pong, the first time I noticed what an incredible smile he has, and the event that started The Great Email Flirtation of 2004.

But since we’re past most of the exercise-themed parts of our story for now, the rest will have to wait for tomorrow.

Stay tuned…

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