For Theresa

Theresa had been part of our family for so long that I can’t remember the first time I met her. She was always a perfectly natural addition to our family, present most days of the week, holidays, vacations at the beach. I remember her at my wedding and meeting my newborn son for the first time. Watching my sister grow up, I also got to watch Theresa.

Lisa and Theresa made quite the pair. I’m not sure another person on earth would agree to watch Billy Madison as many times in a row as the two of them did together or change song lyrics and sing these new lyrics throughout the house until no one was laughing anymore. Or dress up (and they did this was when they were adults!)

Truth be told, I was always a little jealous of their friendship. To have a friend that one could call any hour of the night; a friend who would travel across state lines to lend a hand; a friend to laugh, cry, and get in trouble with; a friend with whom there were no secrets–Lisa and Theresa had a beautiful relationship.

My family and I never saw Theresa without a smile, and she genuinely loved people. My sister and I each had other friends growing up, and, I guess, as is natural, we didn’t always like those other friends. However, that was not the case with Theresa. I don’t know how another person could not like her. Her silliness, her smile, the attention she gave to everyone–Theresa’s personality was endearing.

Knowing her as such a beautiful person only makes her death harder. Why did God allow a person to die who had so much life left? Why take a young wife and mother, one who meant so much to so many people? I don’t know the answer but can only trust the mystery with Him.

A few weeks ago, I walked through my neighborhood. The air was cooler, and the trees were beginning to reflect hues of gold and burnt orange. I couldn’t stop looking up, studying the leaves that blew in the wind above my head.

Fall has always been my favorite season. Finally!–a reprieve from the terrible hot of Georgia, a glimpse of life at its most radiant before the dead of winter comes. But every year my complaint is the same–fall is too darned short.

Maybe that’s what makes fall so special to me. I know I have to get outside, walk in that cool air as soon as it hits, because in a week, I could be staring at gray, drizzly skies while wearing a winter coat.

Fall to me is God’s gift before winter. The leaves on the tree could slowly dry up and fall to the ground in a crunchy mess, but no–God let’s those leaves go out in a bang! Their final breaths are spent, not using energy for photosynthesis, but acknowledging the shorter days and resting, letting the green fade from their leaves revealing brilliant yellows and oranges and reds.

The maple tree in my front has a few red leaves left, and I wish I could pack that color into a crayon. Of course, I can’t; I have to enjoy it while it’s here.

When I think back to Theresa’s last months here, I see brilliance as her life was fading. I watched as my sister left her own family for days at a time to care for her friend, to watch Theresa’s child. I don’t get to witness love like that very often, and I’m so proud of the woman my sister is, the friend she was to Theresa.

At the wake and the funeral, I saw pain in the eyes of so many that loved her, and I could feel the intensity of that love. I listened as friends laughed recounting memories, and I cried when Theresa’s father spoke bravely of his daughter and her precious life. I know there is anger over her death and confusion and a whole other range of emotions that we can’t even explain–and in a way, these emotions are beautiful. The fact that a person could cause us to feel, really feel–it’s amazing.

No, we’d rather not have the winter and the gray that looms over us now. We don’t want to feel the chill in our bones or the wind on our cheek. Yet, we will all face our own winters; Theresa’s just came sooner than we’d like. However, in the midst of our tears, we can look at the love and passion and loyalty that remained when the Theresa we knew faded away. And it was magnificent.

 

Content

I don’t typically write without knowing where I’m going or having a point neatly wrapped up in the midst of one of my stories about marker-stained carpet or stolen peaches. However, today I felt the need to just write. I’m not sure where this post will end, but I wanted to begin, nonetheless.

The last few weeks, I’ve felt this overwhelming surge of happiness. I’ve tried to attribute the source–a vacation with Matt that worked, prayer that had been answered, the right dosage of medicine, visits with the chiropractor to get my body working properly–but I’m not sure what/who is to thank; maybe all of the above.

All I know is that I feel wonderful. I still wake up feeling like I could go right back to sleep, but I’m able to shake that cloudiness once I get going. I’m not sure that happiness and feeling wonderful are even the right words to describe where I am. Perhaps, content is a better description.

Most of the factors in my life that caused me grief before are still here–Matt’s long hours at work, a constant feeling of being overwhelmed by the kids and house–but I have a sense of ‘okay’ with all of them–not that I’m okay with those factors but that I am okay, we will be okay.

I’ve been looking at my children a lot lately–obviously, I see them every day–but looking at that little spark that makes them them. I can’t help but smile when I see it.

A few weeks ago, I wanted to write a post about all that I had forgotten. We had found some home videos of the kids when they were babies and toddlers. Caleb on his second birthday–I had forgotten his little voice, the way he sounded when he said ‘hanga-burger’ for  ‘hamburger;’ Hannah Grace, how beautifully sweet and how deep her voice was, even as a little baby as she said ‘Bye-i;’ Chloe and the first time she ate the carrots that I hadn’t quite pureed enough, Caleb laughing a weird, throaty laugh in the background. That night, my heart and insides literally ached for those days, not because I wanted them back, but because I couldn’t remember. I grieved for those little babies and wanted one more time to squeeze them and suck in every detail, memorize the sounds and smells so that I would never forget.

I guess that’s the consequence of having baby after baby after baby–one loses brain cell after brain cell after brain cell, and I just couldn’t take in all those details that I now miss. I think that feeling of loss is why I’m drinking in their uniqueness now.

I look at Hannah Grace, and I marvel. This child has captured a part of my heart. Boy, she is stubborn, but that sweetness inside of her–I’ve never met another with it. I took her to a trial gymnastics class the other day, and I prepared a water bottle for her. When I told Hannah Grace that this bottle was hers if she was thirsty after class, she just looked at me for a moment, paused and smiled. She slightly cocked her head to one side and quietly said, “thank you.” Looking at her face, one would’ve thought I told her that we deeded her the house when she turns 30. It was as if in her little heart she thought, How am I so special? and Now it’s my turn after a year and a half of watching her brother’s baseball games. The gratitude quietly shone through her.

It was a small moment, quick and quiet, but my heart warmed all the same. I love this little girl.

We watched Annie the other night with the girls, and I realized, if Hannah Grace is my Punky Brewster,’ Chloe is my ‘Annie.’ I never understood why the babies of families tend to be spoiled; I’m starting to get a sense of it now. The other day, Hannah Grace called her little sister ‘stupid’ from the top bunk of her bed. Well, if that little three-year-old didn’t get to her feet and start climbing the ladder ready to pound her sister. I pulled Chloe off the ladder, chuckling inside at my little tiger. If Caleb had reacted that way, I would’ve been horrified. When I pray at night, I pray my feisty little girl will turn that confidence and fighting spirit away from people’s noses and toward her Lord and convictions.

Last night, Caleb helped me put away the dishes. He told me that I could sit down; he would do them for me. I told him we could make the chore go quickly if we did it together. And that’s my boy–emotional and sensitive and ever the people-pleaser. Too much like me. Sometimes, I look at him and want to yell, “No! You don’t want to be like me!” but then I remember how he wanted to go to the pool when it was busy so that he could make new friends. Yeah, he’s not totally his mommy, after all.

Sometimes I look ahead and wonder what scar I will have left on their skin. I picture my kids in therapy relating, “My mom just couldn’t ___”, or “My mom always ____.” I’m far from perfect, but I hope these three know how my heart swells when I look at them, how I think they are the most beautifully unique people I have ever met.

And then there’s Matt. He brought me flowers last week…and a few weeks before that. I’ve been trying to show more attention to his work shirts. We kiss a little longer in the mornings and smile a little more often when we look at each other. It’s the little things, and the sense that we’re both working together, for each other, that makes the work worth it.

Anyone who reads my blog knows that I don’t hold back from sharing the ugly in my life. But writing authentically means I share the beautiful, too, and I’m finding the beauty in just living contentedly. I’m not complacent–I know God shakes things up often–but for the first time in a while, I feel different.

I spent some time with a good friend a week or so ago, and, after our visit, she said, “You sound good. You sound light.” I feel light. I want to see those little glimmers in the everyday, those ordinary moments, and like Hannah Grace taking her water bottle, I want to smile and say, ‘thank you.’

Linking up with Michelle and Jen. I’d love to read your glimmers of content in the comments below.


 

Rest

Sunday night, Matt and I drove back up our driveway to reality. For the past four days, we had lived as newlyweds, except on this ‘honeymoon’ we were content to sit next to each other with a book in hand.

I read two books this week. I have to admit, I was relieved to know that I could still read considering I had taken six months to read my last book. I guess all I needed was a beach chair and umbrella and a couple of hours to myself.

And for four days, that was our existence. We woke up late and went to bed late after spending hours at the beach doing nothing. It was glorious. I’ve never been one for doing nothing, but now I see what I’ve been missing.

We started our vacation by getting our rings polished. Those first few years of marriage, we kept our rings sparkly and clean, but neglect from the last few years had taken its mark. They had become dull, merely a symbol that encircled our fingers but didn’t catch our eye. However, when the attendant walked out with our rings, I actually giggled. I found myself staring at my ring the way I had when it newly graced my finger.

Matt and I took long walks on the beach talking, not ‘how was work?’ talking, but really talking. We talked about our future and remembered our past. We didn’t talk about our kids much, either. I felt a little guilty that I didn’t really miss them.

Sure, I enjoyed talking to them every day, but I didn’t want to go home. I entertained the thought of hiring a nurse like the one in Romeo and Juliet. I would play with my kids and then hand them over to her when they started fighting or peed their pants. I decided that that plan wouldn’t work, though, because I actually do want to raise my children–just not during those days on the beach.

On the second full day, I surprised myself. I didn’t feel tired, anymore; sure, I felt lazy, and some of my plans for the day included a nap under the umbrella, but I didn’t feel like I couldn’t go on. And that feeling was one of the best of the trip.

We drove up our driveway last Sunday, and as the garage door rolled up, three little munchkins in pajamas ran out. I’m pretty sure that’s the first time we received applause from our children. I wanted to scoop them all up–there is just something about newly bathed children in clean pajamas.

And then the reality of what we’d been missing hit us quickly. Matt went right back to work, and I spent a morning at the chiropractor’s yelling at children who were fighting over toys. But I noticed, even while having pain in my back that wouldn’t let me turn to see what was actually happening in the rear of the van, I had patience. I disciplined better. And I loved greater.

I spent more time playing with my kids’ hair, and Matt and my kisses ‘goodbye’ lasted a little longer. I longed for him, and I desperately wanted, want, to keep up our walks at the beach where we talked about everything and nothing, together without distraction. I don’t want to fall into the rut of TV and Twitter; I want to keep our rings polished.

Rest was exactly what we needed to see each other with fresh eyes, and I don’t want to wait another ten years to rest again. I love Matt and my kids too much to run on empty. So the next time Mommy says” I need a vacation!” everyone better start packing their bags.

Have you taken the time to get the rest you need? Realistically, we can’t take vacation all the time–and in this economy, sometimes we can’t take a vacation at all. What are your suggestions for getting the rest we all need?

I’m linking up with Michelle for her ‘Graceful Summer.’

Risk

The rain began to tap the windshield as it had ten years prior, when we first drove away as husband and wife. I remembered the nervousness I felt as we sat in traffic (traffic at 11:00 at night, amazingly), quietly waiting to enter the rest of our lives. At the young age of 22, I really didn’t understand the risk I was taking, only that I was in love with a man whom I wanted to love forever. But, now, as we left our car and ran to take cover from the rain that came down cold on our backs, I realized how brave we were.

Ten years ago, we had decided to enter a union knowing that the odds said we had a 50 percent chance of losing. We risked making the vows anyway, deciding that divorce wasn’t an option for us. We knew that rough patches would come along, and we were committed to loving and working together through those times.

Of course, we didn’t know exactly what those rough times would be or the endurance we would need to keep going. We didn’t know the disappointments along the way or the helplessness we would feel when we didn’t know how to help one another. We didn’t know the strain that three kids would bring to our journey nor the darkness of depression. We didn’t know how tired and empty we could feel.

But we had heard ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained,’ and we risked the ‘I do’s’ anyway. And every day since then, we’ve risked giving a little more than we think we have left, losing a little bit of ourselves as we try to serve each other, forgetting comfort as we do what is right instead of what is easy.

I looked across the table that night at him as we ate risotto and laughed at not being cool enough for our waiter and wondered if it was still raining outside. We let our tired selves relax in our chairs as we pushed aside everything but each other.

I watched him smile across the table at me, and I missed our kids–but not really–and I thought of his braveness, our braveness, and strength. We were tired, but we were enjoying each other too much to leave. And ten years later, knowing the risks but experiencing the gain, I quietly said, ‘I do.’

This post was inspired by Lisa-Jo’s ‘Five Minute Friday’ on risk and, of course, my husband of ten years, Matt. I wanted more than five minutes to think about my words, so I mulled over them this weekend. I love you, Matt, and I look forward to risking the rest of our lives together.

 

Motherhood Summed Up in One Story

The last few weeks have been packed full–spring programs at preschool, sick visits to the doctor, tee-ball practice, birthday parties and holidays–the norm once the warm weather hits. In the midst of all the running, I cut out the trips to the gym. The gym would still be there after all the programs were over, so I would start back into a regular routine after spring break.

Monday was my first day back, and I strangely enjoyed the soreness and stiff muscles that accompanied me on my Tuesday consisting of a parent-teacher conference and excessively long oil change. Wednesday I would visit the gym again.

In the meantime, I finished out my Tuesday with Matt on the couch. We were both drained after a busy day and decided to numb our minds with a little tv before dragging ourselves up the stairs to bed. We had a little company, though. Chloe complained of a tummy ache, so we let her lie down on the couch next to us. Of course she didn’t fall asleep as we had hoped; the thrill of getting her way kept her up and excited, but the intermittent cries over her tummy were enough for me to pull a wastebasket near.

I had passed the last 30 minutes or so half-listening to the tv while trying to achieve something impressive in my games of ‘Words with Friends.’ Matt and I gave each other the look that said it was time to get off our butts and call it a night, so we each promptly moved an inch and settled into a new position on the couch. Chloe also fought the idea of moving upstairs and crawled into my lap.

Of course she would have crawled into my lap before it happened.

I heard the groan but didn’t realize what was happening until it was too late. And then I felt what was happening–all over my arm, all over my shirt, all over my pants. I couldn’t concern myself with me, though; that’s what the husband sitting next to me was for. Instead, I rubbed Chloe’s back, trying to calm her, while I waited for Matt to help me move her to the trashcan.

“It’s okay, baby,” I offered in my most soothing voice. I tried to move Chloe away, but I was in an awkward position and dripping with vomit. I did my best to not drip on any undisturbed part of the couch or carpet and thought how much easier this task would be if Matt just lifted Chloe for me.

Surely, Matt would intervene before the second upheaval. Surely he would help me turn her around. Surely.

Unless, of course, my husband was completely unaware that his daughter was throwing up all over his wife because he was checking his Tweets.

As the second upheaval was happening, I turned to see Matt holding his phone in front of his face, not even offering a glance in our direction.

“Seriously?!?!?!” I yelled at him.

Just like that, the Twitter trance was broken.

“She’s throwing up all over the place! How do you not notice?!”

Matt had already scrambled to get paper towels. I wiped the face of Chloe who was still screaming and then grabbed a towel from Matt to clean my wet arm. I decided it would be easiest for the two of us to strip down to our underwear and throw our clothes straight into the washing machine.

As I was delicately lifting the vomit-covered shirts over our heads, I heard a gag sound coming from the couch. I looked over to see my husband cleaning up with a paper towel.

“Matt!” I called out in a tone that spoke ‘you better surpress all gags from here on out since I am the one wearing the throw-up.’

“I know,” he answered, knowing exactly what the tone meant.

I couldn’t really be mad, though. After all, he was cleaning up vomit.

We all made our way upstairs after the evidence of the night was cleaned away, and I washed and dressed Chloe. I took a shower, and then I made my way to bed where Matt and Chloe had already found sleep. I snuggled in next to my baby knowing that, once again, I would delay getting back into a routine at the gym.

I couldn’t help but laugh to myself at the life of a mother. We get to wear the brunt of the throw-up and  have to change our plans daily while, many times, our husbands are clueless as to the chaos of our everyday.

The next morning, I let Chloe sleep and wrapped her warm body in a blanket when it was time to take the other two to school. We spent the first part of the day snuggling as we listened to Elmo’s laughs and Strawberry Shortcake’s retelling of Cinderella, and we gave each other lots of hugs and kisses. And I had to admit, vomit aside, this morning ended up being much better than any day at the gym.

 

How would you sum up motherhood? Dads, how would you describe being a father?

I’m Over It

I remember late-night talks on the couch, practically falling asleep in front of one another but not wanting to say ‘goodnight.’ Our fingertips danced in each others’ hands, and my cheeks ached from the genuine smile stretched across my face.

I remember the butterflies that fluttered in my stomach before he arrived and the passionate kisses that marked his departure. I look back at those early days and wish that, almost twelve years later, we could recapture a little bit of that newness, whatever made each encounter exciting.

But I wouldn’t want to recapture everything.

I remember one Saturday afternoon when we strategically planned our attendance at three different movie theaters. Yes, these ‘poor college students’ somehow found the money to see three movies in one day but not to eat something besides Ramen noodles. But we had our priorities straight–the next day was the Oscars, and we hadn’t seen every movie up for ‘Best Picture.’

Off to see Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and then to see Chocolate (pr0nounced however French people say the word) and then we’d end the night with Traffic. Six-plus hours of movies together so that we could feel qualified to predict the winner.

I don’t remember if I picked the winner, nor do I remember watching those Oscars.

But I do remember the 83rd Academy Awards. The year we hadn’t seen at least half of the nominated movies. The year when the butterflies were dead for the moment as the drool collected in the corners of my mouth. The year when I opened my eyes and said, “Let me know the winner in the morning. I’m going to bed.”

Yeah, I guess you could say I’m over it.


Mama’s Losin’ It

Post inspired by Mama Kat’s prompt to write about something you did with your spouse when you dated but now you’re ‘over.’ What is something you’re over?

But Better

I was disappointed. I had looked forward to going on this field trip with him, and he acted like he wished I hadn’t come. Of course, I knew that wasn’t true. Caleb was excited any time I came to his school, but one would have never known it from the distance he put between us at the museum.

The museum atmosphere was a little crazy–a whole town complete with a police car and fire truck, a hair salon and bank, the essential grocery store and hospital, every exhibit ‘hands-on’ and ready for sixty-four kindergarteners to blow through like a tornado. Caleb’s teacher asked if I would let Brandon join our group of two, and, of course, I said ‘yes.’ Brandon was sweet and listened when I asked the boys to stay together; Caleb, however, had other plans.

My anxiety level began to rise as Caleb would run to exhibit after exhibit without his friend or me by his side. I spent the majority of my time, not enjoying the exhibits, but trying to figure out if I, in fact, had Caleb and Brandon with me, a challenging feat when all thirty boys are dressed with the same uniform and short hairdo.

I was aggravated. I knew Caleb wanted to play with his best friend, but his teacher asked me to watch Brandon, too. I didn’t understand what was so hard about us all staying together, and I was getting tired of trying to force the cohesion.

And then I hit my limit for the day. Like a group of ducklings with their mama duck, the kids formed a line behind their teacher in preparation for going to lunch. Caleb had thought he started the line, but apparently so did another kid. As the front of the line moved ahead of Caleb, tears welled up in his eyes and spilled down his cheeks.

I sighed loudly while giving an obligatory side-hug. I could not believe he was going to start crying because he wasn’t the line leader. Caleb was going to need to toughen up–it doesn’t get much better than kindergarten.

But then I heard the words clearly in my mind:

He’s exactly like you.


And I immediately understood. Not only is Caleb only five, an important fact that I kept forgetting, but he’s got a sensitive heart just like his mama. He’s loyal to his friends, and that day he just wanted to find his buddy. His feelings bruise easily, and to a kindergartener, losing the title of ‘line leader’ is devastating.

I get that. I remember countless times of feeling wounded for this or that, a careless word or thoughtless inaction. I remember trying to blink back tears when I was embarrassed or hurt. And if I’m to be truthful, it’s easy to remember–I don’t have to look farther than last week.

In fact, I was over-sensitive the same day as Caleb. Yes, he should’ve listened better and stayed close to Brandon and me, but, honestly, I was upset because I was hurt. I was hurt that my son didn’t want me close like some of the other kids wanted their parents; I was hurt because my son didn’t obey. And I was critical of Caleb’s reaction in line because, often, we are most critical of those flaws we see in ourselves.

But, Caleb, having a sensitive spirit is also your asset. Your genuine concern and love for others makes my heart smile. So if once in a while the tears spill and our feelings hurt, it’s worth it.

Yesterday, Caleb made handwritten cards with original drawings for each of his classmates just because he wanted to. I picked up one card that read, ‘You are my best friend.’

“Riley, really?” I responded, a little surprised since Caleb hadn’t really mentioned Riley before.

And without missing a beat, he cleared up my confusion.

“Well, I think he wouldn’t like it if I wrote ‘You’re not my best friend.’

Yes, Caleb’s just like me but better.

I Brush Her Hair

Last night, I ran the brush through her hair. Gently, I endeavored to get out the knots–without tears– that gather so easily at the end of her long strands. I stopped suddenly, mid-stroke, and stared at Chloe’s hair. The back of her head looked a little less blonde than those baby days when white hair rested atop her head. And I had one of those feelings common in parenthood, or during those visits with relatives far away, when I know the moment will end soon.

Honestly, I couldn’t care less if any of my children have blonde hair. I’m a brunette who has always been happy with her color. I’ve shied away from highlights for fear of turning platinum, and, if anything, my quests to cover gray have ended with hair darker than my natural color.

But standing there, looking at Chloe’s blonde streaks, I knew I had to take that moment to stare because, before my eyes, she was changing. I don’t worry about Chloe’s hair color–I worry about forgetting.

I have a horrible memory. I frustrate my parents when I can’t remember special trips we took as a family or that Christmas when so-and-so did such-and-such. I’ve thought that perhaps Matt had a girlfriend on the side with whom he was confusing me when he swears I saw a movie with him in the theater that I’ve never heard of before. I thank God that I didn’t do drugs in school–I might not remember my name if I did.

So when I look at Chloe’s hair, still blonde but not as blonde, I am reminded that she is changing before my eyes. I am reminded that I can’t quite remember Caleb’s cheerful voice or giggle as a rambunctious two-year-old. I am reminded that I can’t remember much at all of Hannah Grace as a baby; her baby years were during a very stressful time in our life. I am reminded that I need to take note, hold tight in my memory, those precious moments that seem insignificant but make each child unique.

I want to remember Chloe’s white hair.

I want to remember the death stare she gives relatives when she’s not amused.

I want to remember how she jumped from beds and chairs and stairs and anything that she could use to give her a few more inches off the ground.

I want to remember how Chloe talks better than any two-year-old I’ve ever met and uses complete sentences to answer most questions. And I even want to remember when her voice got a little squeaky and could give me a headache by the end of the day.

I want to remember, “Supergirl to the rescue!” and black Sharpie marker all over her forehead and hair and bottom and far too many other places.

And I want to remember when she would wrap her arms around my neck, her legs around my waist, and lay her head on my shoulder while saying, “I love you so much.”

There are so many things I want to remember, and I fear my memory won’t do her justice.

So, baby girl, when I brush your hair for a few minutes longer than I have to, I’m not trying to annoy you--I just don’t want to forget.


I hope you’ll indulge me this week as I devote one post to each child. I looked over my last few posts, and very few were about them. However, I have some events that I need to record because I will forget–but they are worth remembering.

Little Blessings

Sometimes it’s just too much–my heart feels like it could explode. I wake up and decide to be thankful because, yes, some days it is a decision. But once I make that decision, it becomes easier and easier to fulfill.

The little girl who answers everything in complete sentences…Yes, Rebecca is my friend in preschool,

the little girl who has a fashion sense all her own, reminiscent of Punky Brewster,

the little boy who looks so darned cute in his policeman uniform that cost 50 cents,

the husband who made a Thursday night a true date night at home, perfect in every way,

the quick-witted sister who kept me laughing all morning,

and the father and mother who gave me life and have shown me how to live it.

They make up all of the little blessings in my day. And when I add them up, I see there’s nothing little about it.

I’m doing my own version of the Gypsy Mama’s ‘Five Minute Friday.’ To be exact, today was a ‘four minute and twenty three second’ Friday. I hope you all have a great weekend counting your own blessings! Feel free to encourage us with some of them below.

 

The First Date

I knew him from church. I was 16; he was older, and one day he walked up to me and asked if I’d like to go to the laser show with him. I don’t remember why I had to drive (I think his mom didn’t feel comfortable with him driving me in their open-aired vehicle), but I remember pulling down his driveway and feeling a little nervous as he got into my car.

But off we went. We spread out a blanket on the lawn of Stone Mountain and had a picnic over easy conversation. And it was easy. In fact, I have never been on a first date where the conversation flowed so easily. We talked and laughed until the light of day faded away and the giant lasers could be see on the side of the dark mountain. I’m sure mosquitos had their fill on our skin during that hot Georgia evening, but I don’t remember minding.

After the show was over, we stopped for ice cream and managed to stretch our date a little longer until it was time to return to our parents who were checking their clocks on their nightstands. He gave me the cd of Garth Brooks he had brought along for the ride since I mentioned he was the only country singer I could tolerate. And then he smiled and said, “I had a really good time.” “I did, too” I answered.

And I did.

The nervousness returned as I silently prayed that he wouldn’t kiss me (and he didn’t), and then I drove home.

I had a lot of fun with this young man, and I had no complaints about the date–he was polite, he paid, and we had meaningful conversation in the midst of fun–but I knew right then and there that I did not want to date him.

I didn’t have any feelings for him beyond friendship, and I didn’t want to lead him to believe that I felt otherwise. So as my over-analytical self is apt to do, I instantly began worrying over how to turn him down for another date. I knew he would ask for another–we had had a great time–and how does one tell another I had a wonderful time, probably the best I’ve ever had on a date, but I don’t want to go out with you again. When I think about you kissing me, I feel weird.

Luckily, I got grounded. I went to see the USA baseball team in the Olympics with my friend and her family, and even though I was with her family the whole time, my dad didn’t like that we came home from the Olympics late. Even though the Olympics are a rare sporting event to visit one’s city. Even though I rode with my friend and her parents and couldn’t come home until they came home. But I digress.

So when he called and asked if I’d like to go to the Olympics with him, I answered a little too perky “I’m actually grounded because of them.” “You’re grounded because of the Olympics?” he asked, clearly questioning my story.

And I briefly explained how an ill-fated trip to see Olympic baseball had me grounded for the week. I didn’t act like I was upset. I didn’t offer an alternative date for once my punishment was lifted. I simply said I couldn’t, and that was the end of the conversation.

He was hurt, and I’m sure he didn’t understand because I didn’t really understand, and then his hurt turned to anger. He never spoke to me again until a chance meeting in a parking lot where he mentioned that he thought all Christians were hypocrites.

A few years went by; we had gone our separate ways to college and met once again at our home church. He apologized for what he had said previously, and I forgave him. No hard feelings. And then, once again, he gave it another try, contacting me at school.

I thought I had been upfront and honest. I told him I didn’t want to start dating, but he asked for one date, and I agreed. I can’t remember the details of the date, but I remember him driving me back to my dorm after a nice evening. I told him “thank you,” and then I ended the date. I couldn’t ask him up to my room–my roommate was in there sleeping, I was sure, and I thought that gesture would imply something I didn’t want to imply. I could’ve asked him into the lobby, but I guess I didn’t see the point. And he didn’t see the point in continuing a friendship since a friendship wasn’t what he wanted.

I don’t know why I wasn’t interested in a person with whom I always had a good time. I don’t know why I didn’t feel any attraction. It had nothing to do with looks, but he didn’t give me that tingle in my stomach when we were together.

He didn’t cause me to get giddy when I thought about him. He didn’t bring a smile to my face at the mere mention of his name. He didn’t inspire me to stay up until crazy hours of the night because I wanted to hold onto one more minute before we finally said ‘goodnight.’

But one man did.

I can rattle off a hundred reasons why I love this man, but I can’t explain why the attraction grew when it did. Some things are a mystery…

…but perhaps part of the mystery of attraction is that I instinctively knew with whom I wanted to weather my toughest storms. I knew the man with whom I wanted to share my ‘in sickness and in health.’ And I knew the man with whom I would create some gorgeous children.

Or maybe I didn’t.

But someone else looking out for us did.

Regardless of the reason for the attraction, I am thankful. Thankful for the man with whom I have spent nine years. Thankful to Him who guides us and for each additional day together He gives. And thankful that some dates didn’t go past the first.

Flowers Matt gave for our anniversary last week. He remembered I had stargazer lilies in my wedding bouquet.

Linking up with Mama Kat for her Writer’s Workshop.

Mama’s Losin’ It