A look back.

Confession: I  am incredibly nostalgic person.

When I went home last month to help my parents pack up the last of their stuff, I spent at least 4 hours sitting on the floor, going through a box of my old, second-rate toys mostly saying things like, “Oh my gosh, I remember this.”

Four. Hours. And some of them I literally had not thought about once in the 12+ years that they sat in our garage attic.

And while that was probably a gigantic waste of time, I enjoy indulging my nostalgic tendencies from time to time. I like looking back. Facebook timeline was designed for people just like me, and I love it.

David, on the other hand, has this strange obsession with being present in, like, the actual moment in which you are currently living.

Which is great because while one of us is waxing poetic about the Noah’s Ark puzzle she loved when she was 6, the other can be like, “That’s great, babe. But it’s 7pm and I was thinking maybe we could, like, live life and eat dinner at some point.”

But looking back over the year gives me perspective. I realize that it’s okay that I only read 29 out of 30 books. And it’s okay that my year-end posts are about 3 weeks late. And it’s okay that I have four loads of laundry waiting to be done and seven boxes that still need to be unpacked. Because look at everything we got done this year!

So with that, 2012 in pictures:

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The year started with gingerbread houses and these pretty ladies coming to visit.

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I painted this and read a great book by John Green.

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I took a photography colloquia and made it to the final round of TFA interviews.

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I turned 22, and that’s what my room looked like. It was not a good birthday.

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David and I broke up. It snowed. I painted.

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I rearranged my room. I thought about dying my hair, but thankfully, didn’t.

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I adopted a puppy. I named her Harper Lee.

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I had no idea how much I needed her.

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Kaitlyn and I pranked a favorite, retiring professor. Totally worth going to bed at 4am.

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I took a wonderful, unexpected, and much needed Spring Break trip to Kansas.

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I read, I baked with friends, and both of these pretty ladies got married.

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Then somehow, in a turn of events absolutely no one saw coming, David and I got engaged. Go ahead. Judge me. If I were you, I would judge me. In fact, if you don’t raise your eyebrows at that a little, I judge you. But somehow, that worked for us.

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David was named a University scholar and we went on a joy-filled church retreat.

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I had my last class, and we graduated from ACU.

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We said good bye to this place.

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And these people.

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I was in the Most Beautiful Wedding Ever, when my darling friend Ali got married in June.

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We said Hello to College Station. And bought some furniture from this fine establishment.

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My parents moved out of the house we lived in since I was 4, and America had a birthday.

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And my grandfather had a birthday.

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And David had a birthday.

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David started graduate school, and I got my first real job.

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We were “showered” by our wonderful churches.

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And spent a lovely Thanksgiving in Tulsa.

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Then we got married!! Which was wonderful, and busy, and so full of family.

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My dear friend Kaitlyn couldn’t be there, but we got a picture anyway.

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And we spent Christmas honeymooning in Santa Fe.

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Then flew back to Dallas, drove to San Antonio for a friend’s wedding. Then rang in the new year at the wedding of a couple more dear Highland friends.

It was quite a year. It’s a wonderful life.

 




















 

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It’s the final countdown.

That high-pitched whine you’re hearing is the sound of my anxiety.

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My mom texted me today because our cake baker quit.

After several conversations and emails about this cake.

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I mean, she had my email address. Could’ve sent a 30 second message:

“Hey! So won’t be doing your cake after all. I quit. Screw those guys. I realize this is inconvenient for you, but thems the facts. Have a nice wedding!”

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I lied. Typing that took less than 30 seconds.

But, no.

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So thanks for that, chica.

Thankfully, cake is bottom tier of wedding things that are important to me, but still. I want to have some. That doesn’t look like a 4 year old made it.

Actually, my standards are higher than that. I want it to look better than I could do it myself, and I can make some dang good looking desserts, if I do say so myself.

So here’s hoping Edgar knows what he’s doing.

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So that just leaves programs, cups, chairs, tablecloths,
wrapping, video editing, photo scanning, moving, underwear,
plates & utensils, reception playlist, emergency kit, coffee carafes
Christmas presents, hot chocolate ingredients, s’mores, marriage license,
nails, make-up, dinner, exit strategy, thank-you notes, honeymoon packing,
gift buying for the wedding party tinies, my rehearsal dinner outfit,
fixing the errant wedding delivery I received last night, cake
and a partridge in a pear tree to figure out this week.

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I can literally feel my heart rate accelerating.

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So I’m thankful for the Peace on Earth part of Christmas right now. And for a four hour drive all to myself tomorrow to listen to my Yuletide Playlist*. And for a really great boss who gave me a week off.

And in one week, I’ll be together with all my family and dearest friends.

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Just gotta make it through the next 8 days.

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Then wedded bliss.

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*It’s actually titled Jesus and Mary, What a Great Day. And it fantastic. It’s the perfect mix of cheesy Amy Grant, off-beat cheer, and haunting hymns.

Weddings, money, and the Sacred

When I was a little girl, I suppose I imagined my wedding. I mean, all little girls in late-20th century America did. But mostly when I thought of my wedding, I imagined the vows, and exchanging rings, and my dad walking me down the aisle – the stuff that’s still most important to me.

We did own a dress-up veil with a beaded, elastic headband. But my only memory of it was putting it on our ever-gracious, red golden retriever, Molly. (In the pictures, she’s also wearing a hot pink bandanna as a necklace. She was always very fashion conscious.)

But while I was busy trying to imagine concrete features onto the abstract blur waiting for me at the end of the aisle, I wasn’t thinking about my dress (at least not beyond ‘it will be white’) or the cake (though I was certain it would not be white). And I never gave much thought to food or favors or centerpieces or the band.

I wanted to get married, but I never cared all that much about being a bride.

Enter The Wedding Industry, Stage-Left. When I logged onto TheKnot, the night I got engaged, I had 43 items overdue on my check-list.

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Then, learn the lingo before setting foot in a dress salon. Read up on silhouettes, necklines, trains and hues that might flatter you. The season will also affect your choice.
-TheKnot.com

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When I went to try on my dress for the first time, the sales lady practically ran to grab the most beautiful cathedral length lace veil (that I did not buy because it cost more than my dress) and pin it to my head behind a vintage headband (that I did buy because shiny).

She was bubbling with excitement, pinning and arranging and checking my reflection in the mirror. When she’d finished, she stepped back and sighed, “oh you just look so beautiful. Don’t you just feel like a bride?”

I tried to mimic her boundless smile and happy-salesy gushing. But it felt completely disingenuous.

It’s a dress. It’s a pretty dress, and it has pockets, which I think is really awesome. But at the end of the day, I’m going to wear it once. And then I’m going to stuff it in the back of my closet (once I have it preserved of course).

I keep joking that I feel like a terrible bride. Which is mostly a joke. But it’s also a confession. There’s a very real part of me that feels like I’m doing this all wrong.

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“Equip yourself with pens that you like to write with. Stay away from the cheap supermarket variety that make big ink blobs when they’re overused. [I have used ‘cheap supermarket’ pens my whole life, and never had that problem]… Mont Blanc makes some impressive models, if you’ve got the cash. Go ahead and have it monogrammed, as long as you’re in we’re-married-now mode. [Sure, go ahead. With the wedding over, your money is practically worthless now.]”

-TheKnot.com

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And I can easily point to advice like that and laugh, because it seems beyond ridiculous to me (like anyone will ever know what kind of pen you used to write thank you notes). But I have a harder time shrugging off the enormous presumptions that rain down from wedding magazines and pinterest and photography blogs and facebook posts.

Because those beautiful pictures simply do not convey the enormous amounts of money and the hours upon hours of work and the sheer ingenuity it takes to pull off something like that. I have never been a girl who wanted or valued a big, fancy wedding, and I was still a little blind-sided by the weight of expectation and the waves of anxiety.

Because I don’t have $50,000 to toss around (I know, shocker – I’m not secretly wealthy, guys). And if I did, I can pretty much guarantee that I wouldn’t spend it on this one day. The party’s just not that important to me.

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Look for a venue that’s both glamorous and bold. Opulence is key. Try an ornate ballroom with built-in decor that makes you feel as if you’ve stepped into the gold-gilded Palace of Versailles. Other options include a historic mansion, the atrium of an exquisite art museum or the dining room of a grand estate.

-TheKnot.com

———-

We carefully chose where to spend our money on the things that were most important to us, and for us that didn’t include a big sit-down dinner or an expensive dress. And even though we made every decision after much deliberation, with our family and our guests and our personal values in mind, I still feel the need to justify what we aren’t doing.

And yet, I’m constantly justifying the money we are spending to myself. Because I don’t know if I think it’s okay to splurge for the extra gorgeous photos or have a diamond ring or rent tablecloths, so that people don’t have to look at regular old tables.

I worry sometimes that I’m just flowing along, unthinking, in a culture that says “Buy! Buy! Now! You deserve it! You deserve happiness! And diamonds mean happiness!”

I keep thinking of all the other valuable things we could do with The Wedding Budget, and I wonder how much of this is really beneficial, to our family, to our relationship, to our community.

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9-11 months: envision your invitations
6-8 months: work out invitation wording and pick a style
research various invitation
finalize invitation wording
order invitations (don’t forget extra envelopes)
4-5 months: book a calligrapher
address those invitations!
2-3 months: pick up your invites
send them out promptly at the 3-month mark
-TheKnot.com To-Do List

———-

Obviously, we decided to have a wedding, and to splurge on a few things. And I really, truly couldn’t be more excited. But as the day draws closer, I have to admit that The World of Weddings has been a difficult one for me to navigate.

I cringe at terms like “happiest day of your life” and “it’s your big day/ it’s all about you” as though a wedding were merely an excuse to throw a party in honor of my existence rather than a celebration of two people and their families and the covenant they are making.

I don’t want to lose sight of that. I don’t want the sacred, beating heart of this event to be lost in the shenanigans.

I don’t want to forget what Jonathan Storment said: that weddings are meant to be a sign-post, that they are meant to remind the community of their own vows and to point toward a future reality.

A reality in which people might actually love each other like those In Love where out of love and mutual submission, we each place the other above ourselves, where their joys are our joys and we share their pain as if it were our own.

Because a wedding is never about the bride, and it’s not about money, and it’s certainly not about centerpieces. It’s not even about the couple, not really. It’s a symbol, a metaphor for what God wants to do with the world.

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But truth be told, the night after I bought my dress, as I was skyping with David, I imagined, for the first time, walking down the aisle in The Dress. And the face waiting for me at the end wasn’t a vague disembodied Someone. It was a 6’2″ man with gorgeous blue eyes and a beard I never pictured.

And I started crying, just a little. Not metaphorically resonant tears of God’s love for the world, just grateful tears for my own little corner of it.

Always.

“It was always you.”

It sounds right.
Lovely even.
Like in the beginning.

way before life and mess and broken,
there was you
and me,
waiting,
destined.
No one else
ever had a chance.
But no.
I don’t believe in fate
and neither do you.

Not The One
or Mr. Right
or Perfect
or Meant To Be.

Just Adam and Eve
Again
Making a choice
Trying to find their way
back into the garden.

It wasn’t always you.

It became you.

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You guys, you’re fabulous. And I thank you.

There are times when living life can be draining, when grace is an impassable mountain, treacherous and exhausting and insurmountable.

There are times when it is difficult to believe that you are loved, when even the kindness of dear friends has to fight through the darkness to be heard.

I have spent some time on that dark pass, friends. And it can be terrible, lonely, exhilarating, painful, hopeful, cold, and strengthening all at the same time.

But then there are weekends like this last one.

And I don’t subscribe to the notion that you have to know how bad Lima beans can taste in order to recognize just how blissfully apples, pastry, and cinnamon can compliment each other. Our minds and eyes and tongues and hearts know good when they experience it; the ugly bitterness isn’t necessary.

But a heart that has shivered in the loneliness, that has longed achingly for the sun, that has slipped into a chasm where its rising no longer seems certain – that heart has learned gratitude.

Because when that sun rises again – and it does – you are constantly aware of the tickling warmth on the back of your legs, and the feather soft rays that trickle through the clouds. And when you stop for a moment to remember, to recognize, I swear, it’ll bring you to your knees.

And so it was this weekend.

From the overwhelming generosity of my church to family who drove several hours on Saturday just to be there and then turned around Sunday afternoon to drive several hours back.

From a hand-crafted tribute to one of our favorite movies from my cousins to all the precious Christmas gifts from family members that made me feel so known.

My cousin made this. Because she is awesome and talented.

From my dad leaving my favorite road trip snack by my suitcase to a fantastic collection of recipes from my future mother-in-law to the hard-work of my gracious and talented hostesses to another cousin who is helping me do all the decorations because she’s fabulous.

This is the recipe book that I got from Susan. Is that not fan-freaking-tastic? Now, I not only have tons of actual dinner recipes, but I have some of David’s favorites.

And as if all that wasn’t enough, my forever friend and bridesmaid who lives out in California flew in early and completely surprised me by showing up to my shower. So of course I screamed and ran to hug her and we both cried a few happy, happy tears. And I can’t believe we didn’t get a picture, but it was so good to see her.

By the way, she blogs delightfully about all things fashion, here, and you should check it out.

Plus a whole bunch of sweet phone calls and text messages from friends who couldn’t be there, but let me know that I was loved anyway.

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And here are a few gift highlights.
Obviously, one of us likes coffee. I’ll give you a hint: it’s me. I’m the one who likes coffee.

I went with both the fast, single serve (that can also make hot chocolate for David) and the french press. Because why not?

My sister bought me this beautiful blanket. It’s the grown-up version of the blanket I still sleep with every night gave up when I went to college like a grown-up. She picked it out because I can stick my fingers through the holes just like I do with my other one. Yeah, she’s pretty wonderful.

My OhSo soft blanket.

They had a pitcher of wooden spoons set out for people to write their best marriage advice. David and I read through them when I got home last night. Isn’t that such a cute idea?

We got a bit of conflicting advice. Thankfully, I took Glen Pemberton’s Wisdom and Devotional Lit. of the OT class where I learned that wisdom is not bits of universally applicable facts, but is rather the ability to discern when you should apply varied, sometimes contradictory truth. So this is not a problem.
Unless we apply the wrong one…

Confession: this one was my favorite. Mostly because it made me laugh.

I couldn’t capture it in a picture, but sometime I’ll share one of my other forever friends Abby’s brilliant gift. The consensus was that she “won the shower”. Ha.

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I feel blessed beyond words by your love, your generosity, your creativity, and your presence. Thank you. Though those words can hardly contain the depth of my gratitude, thank you, all the same.

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I will think of you each time I get a cup of coffee in the morning or decorate my Christmas tree or curl up with my grown-up blanket.  As Ann Voskamp said, “Remembering is an act of thanksgiving, a way of thanksgiving, this turn of the heart over time’s shoulder to see all the long way his arms have carried.”

How eating cupcakes saved me hundreds of dollars.

Okay. Show of hands.

Who of you out there has ever dreaded going to try on jeans? Because, you know, they just aren’t going to fit. Because maybe you just moved and you don’t feel safe running at night, plus it keeps just being 10:00 pm, even though you’re pretty sure it should be 5:30, but it’s not, and now your whole day is gone.

And maybe you started a new job where you sit all day and maybe they keep a giant bowl of chocolate out in the break room all.the.time. because they hate you and they want to pay more for your medical insurance after you’ve given yourself diabetes.

Okay, one person. Well hey there. You and me, we can be friends.

Yeah, except imagine that maybe it’s not jeans. Imagine it’s your wedding dress. And imagine that maybe when you bought it, you knew you shouldn’t have let them order the next size down, but you thought too highly of your future self.

And imagine that it’s Veterans Day weekend, which translates into American English as BUY ALL THE THINGS! So there are more people at the mall on this particular Saturday than the 23rd of December.

And imagine that you’ve been putting this off for weeks, but you finally just made yourself do it, because otherwise you’d be walking down the aisle naked…or in jeans (which might be worse. I’m not sure. I’ll have to consult the compendium of all wedding knowledge: TheKnot.com).

And imagine that you put on this dress and it absolutely, positively, unequivocally, comically does.not.fit. So go ahead and cry about that for a minute, but not too much because there are a million and half people just milling about outside and you like to contain your humiliation to only the necessary parties (and everyone who reads your blog).

Then go ahead and imagine that you relish a few choice expletives about this situation. Actually, don’t imagine that. I know you. You’re far too classy for that. I’m sorry I brought it up. Please don’t leave.

So imagine that you take off this dress and put your adorable plaid button down back on, but then you just sit there on the dressing room floor, without pants, because quite frankly, the embarrassment is warming this tiny little room, and putting on pants is too much for you right now. That’s okay. Your mom can take it from here.

The world seems over. All you hoped and dreamed for is crashing down around you. Not even a peppermint mocha and a new J.Crew scarf will heal the heart after such a tragedy.

But wait. All hope is not lost.

Your lovely sales lady can find the next two sizes up (just in case) and suggests a four step plan:

a) return your dress
b) purchase both the other two dresses and have them rushed to the store
c) come back next Saturday to try them on again and
d) return one

Sounds like a plan that could only be made in wedding mode. Let’s do it.

Then she pulls out the tag. They’re selling off the last of these dresses, (mine are coming from Denver). And it’s 50% (!) off. If you have never purchased a wedding dress, let me tell you: this isn’t some cute floral sundress that will be out. out. out. next June*. They don’t just go on sale. This isn’t a thing that happens.

Except that it totally did.

My mom and the sales lady took hands and did a happy dance together. I was, of course, still regretting every single piece of chocolate that I had eaten since May individually, and I hadn’t even made it through the summer yet. So my reaction was more tempered.

Then she rang them up. And they were listed at 25% of their original price. For reals, y’all.

A 75% discount on a wedding dress. Even I was tapping my feet, happy style, at this point.

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But I did totally get my hair cut before trying on the dress. Yes, I did that on purpose. Because a hair cut always makes your outlook on the world a little bit brighter.

10 months is a totally reasonable amount of time to go between hair cuts, right?

 

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So to sum up. I ate a whole lot of delicious sweet potato fries and cupcakes. And it saved me hundreds of dollars.

Bring on the cake.

But I do know him

We are officially less than two months away from our wedding. Oh boy.

I’ve joked to David that this marriage better work out, because I don’t ever want to plan another wedding.

I’m only half joking.

If, God forbid, David dies in a tragic accident and I re-marry after the appropriate 30 year grieving period, I’m eloping. In jeans.

But kidding aside, I’ve been thinking a lot about marriage, and about God. And about “the bride of Christ” – that mysterious metaphor, God as the bridegroom, marrying his people, binding himself to them, again and again.

———

I remember “asking Jesus into my heart” at four years old. It’s my first memory of prayer. My mom sat down beside me on my Minnie Mouse comforter, and there, surrounded by pink and white polka dots, I plunged into faith with a four-year-old’s naivete, a four-year-old’s trust, a four-year-old’s image of a white-robed Santa Clause rising out of the clouds.

I had no concept of suffering, of redemption, of sacrifice. I had never heard of the crusades or the Reformation or the Moral Majority. I didn’t know that before the year was over, my dad’s partner (a fellow member of our church) would cheat him out of his practice and send us scrambling back to Texas. I couldn’t imagine how that move would tear into the foundation of our little family.

But I knew that after church on Sunday, Megan would come find me, give me a piece of bubble-iscious gum, pick me up and spin me in laughing circles around the atrium. I knew that when my daddy got down on his knees, looked me in the eye, and asked me to forgive him, it had something to do with Jesus, with flannel graphs and Easter and grace. I knew that I was loved.

———

Seven years later I decided that I wanted to be baptized. I don’t know why that choice took root when it did. There was no impassioned speaker making the altar call at a youth rally, no hyper emotional, “can he still feel the nails” worship experience at church camp. Maybe I was just tired of not getting to enjoy the crackers and juice.

One day, it was some thing that would happen someday, and the next day, I didn’t see any reason to put it off. I believed in God, without question or qualification. I believed in church, in the bible, in the Nazarene who walked around the Middle East 2,002 years ago.

I was twelve. I had very few friends. I played the violin (badly) and I loved school. I was pro-reading, pro-life, pro-french, pro-George Bush. I was anti-gay, anti-terrorism, anti-swearing, anti-drinking, anti-Texas History class. My position on evolution was evolving.

I thought I knew who God was and what he wanted.

This may not quite be twelve. There aren’t many pictures from middle school because I tore them all into tiny pieces and threw them away.  I even went looking for pictures on my myspace page, which, let me tell you, is embarrassing. But apparently I didn’t start the social networking until high school. How far I’ve come.

I couldn’t foresee how a Wednesday night series studying other religions would eviscerate my certainty, force me to wrestle, hard, with the idea of an omnipotent God who would deliver babies into the middle east, into Muslim families, into belief systems as strong and confused and loving as my own, then condemn them to an eternity of suffering.

I wouldn’t have guessed that my first foray into doubt would bring me face to face with a God more wildly loving and forgiving than I had ever imagined, years before Love Wins would spark controversy into the heart of every LifeWay Christian Store.

I didn’t anticipate an almost forgettable conversation with my cousin, four years younger, that challenged all the lines I’d memorized about gay marriage and “the homosexual agenda”. I didn’t realize that would be my first significant break from my parents’ theology*.

At the time that my dad immersed me in that unexpectedly warm water, I would have sworn to the moon and back that I would never attend Abilene Christian University. I had no idea how much my soul needed that place.

My parents bought me a new dress from Limited, Too. It was black, and it sparkled. My grandparents came to celebrate, and I was granted the all important Sunday lunch decision. I chose Joe’s Crab Shack.

I barely knew God. But oh, I knew him. Something deep in my bones, stitched into the fabric of my skin – he wasn’t going anywhere and neither was I. I grew. I changed. My entire belief system got turned inside out and left me naked, without answers.

But always, somehow, I found myself growing into him, even on the days when I wasn’t sure there was such a thing as God. 

————-

David and I are twenty-two. I have many friends already married, but still, we are young. At least five years below the average. Some people say it’s too young: you can’t know the other, you barely know yourself, you don’t know what you’ll want in five years, you will change so much.

They’re right. Of course, they’re right. And maybe I should be more afraid of marriage, of this choosing at a fork in the road, a decision that cannot be undone, a life stretching out into the wilds of an unknowable future.

Maybe I should be more cynical, less naive, less certain of the hands I hold. There is so much future waiting ahead of us – most of our assumptions are probably wrong and four years is nothing like fifty – we barely know each other.

I’m sure we will look back, years from now, and wonder at ourselves, at how we could leap so blindly into a covenant we only barely understood.

I have no idea what awaits us. I don’t know where we’ll live. I don’t know that we’ll always be able to find work. I don’t know how parenthood will change us or how long our parents will be around to offer their love and advice. I don’t know what it will look like when death takes someone loved, when we are finally forced to encounter that reality.

But I know that even though David hates spicy food, he still ate the pasta when I accidentally went a little crazy with the Cayenne. I know that I stayed up till one helping him study after he talked with me for two hours about gender and the bible and the church. I know that we keep choosing each other, over and over.

————-

So my parents bought me another new dress, white this time.

And on another December day, I’ll make another life-long commitment. And maybe it doesn’t matter that I can’t know what’s waiting beyond the next ridge, that I can’t foresee how it will change us. I know the one I’m choosing.

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*I don’t meant to speak for my parents; they’re beliefs are more nuanced than I understood them to be when I was twelve. But that was how it felt at the time.