Ten months today. Every day a gift, every laugh a treasure, every tear a mark of growth and bonding. How very little I deserve this joy, this delight of growing with another person. We are both sinners, both so small in the great scheme of things… simply grains of dust, here one moment and gone the next.
Yet our love is so much bigger than the two of us, our dedication and commitment so much stronger than anything we possess. I know we’re young, I know we have a life ahead in which to learn and have the edges rubbed off. But the foundation of the cross is already laid; a foundation that we stand on and trust to guide us through our immaturity, our failings, our frustrations. With such a big God as the author of our love story, we can continue to move ahead in youthful excitement and hopeful anticipation, knowing that He holds our marriage and our future in His hands.
Ten months today. How very little I deserve those arms encircling me, those hands lovingly guiding me, a visible, physical picture of our Father in heaven who loves us oh, so much more than we could fathom. To have been found by a man here on earth who strives after the character of Christ; our Savior who gave his life so that we might live… I am blessed beyond measure not just by an earthly, passing love from my husband, but a love founded on something deep, rich, and eternal.
Ashton and I will have been married for ten months, come next Monday. The Lord has been faithful, and it has been a very wonderful ten months! On one hand we feel as if a lot has happened, but on the other hand, as if time has flown by and wasn’t it just yesterday we were saying our vows at the altar?
Our lives right now are fairly easy-going, though for a while we were traveling and having guests almost continually… which is fun, but we are thankful for a summer at home.
Our last trip was out to Nebraska to visit my family over my birthday and the 4th of July. It also meant the trip to say goodbye to my Border Collie, Mac. I had been caught up in wedded bliss while holding on to the hope that Ashton and I would have a home suitable for him soon… and then as life settled down and we ended up signing on for another year at the apartment, I accepted the reality that we wouldn’t be able to take him anytime soon, and my family had their hands full without trying to give him the attention he needed. The Lord provided at the last minute so that I could say goodbye and meet his new owner on our trip in July. There were few tears, and Mac was overjoyed to meet his new playmate and girlfriend, May, and it made it easier to say goodbye as I watched him so enamored and in love.
It was a great visit home… a more relaxing time to be with my parents, siblings, and grandparents. Family is a blessing, and I take them for granted much less now as a married woman living six hours away… which didn’t sound so far away in the beginning, but as time goes on puts a bigger gap between family time than I anticipated. But, anything that we love and see less of just becomes even more treasured.
I definitely miss the big, open deck at my parents house… especially as we are living more in the city and see less of the sky. Ashton and I soaked up the sunsets and rolling countryside in the distance while we were there!
It was fun to visit Fort Atkinson the morning of my birthday, to visit my sister who was reenacting, and to see the place we girls and the boys haunted when we could… in our historical garb, reenacting and dancing. It was a beautiful weekend!
Flash back to Saturday, June 21st. Ashton and I decided to change things up and have our monthly date (nine months to the day we got married) in the morning. We forced ourselves out of bed early enough to catch the beautiful sunrise as it came over the Illinois river. It was so worth it!
Then we went to one of our favorite farm-to-table restaurants… Harvest Cafe in rural Illinois. We were hungry and savored every bite of our hash, eggs Benedict, juice and coffee. Another flash back to one of our “firsts”… our first time at the Statewide home school conference near Chicago. It was exciting to go as a married couple, as we are praying for and preparing for the blessing of children, and the privilege of teaching them.
Another first… our first time visiting the Creation Museum together.
While in Cincinnati for a board meeting with Samaritan Ministries, we went downtown on the river for drinks and then walked across on a pedestrian bridge as music from the live band on the river filled the air. We really enjoyed Cincinnati and hope to go back to discover more of the city.
After we took our “kissing photos” at the front of the Church (and with our amazing, retro getaway car!), we drove over to the Church fellowship hall where our guests were waiting and made our entrance…
There are several moments on September 21st when time stood still, and I was overwhelmed by the realization of the day, and our blessings. One such moment was when we walked into the reception hall… the decorations were beautiful, the room transformed… but what caused me to blink back tears of thankfulness and awe was seeing the large room filled with the smiling faces of our friends, family, students, role models. How rich, how showered with blessings we were by the presence of so many wonderful people who were rejoicing with us.
A woman from my Church, a dance mom, and their helpers did such an amazing job decorating the hall for us! We sat up on the stage with our wedding party, and were served an English tea menu with delicious food planned by my mother and prepared by Ashton’s aunt, and several women in the kitchen. So many people involved in our special day!
My sister and maid of honor, giving her speech.
She did a great job, as did the best man. No embarrassing stories, either!
Though we did get some laughs, which is always fun.
The bridal cake was a gift from a kind lady from my Church! All the cake options were quite yummy.
Of course, when you pick a group of fun-loving guys who know each other fairly well to be the groomsmen, they’re going to come up with something fun and goofy to surprise you with. In our case, it was a follow-up to a thread of emails in which I jokingly told the guys what they were wearing (and not wearing). Hence, the afros.
Our first dance as husband and wife. Ashton’s brother gave us the gift of dance lessons for our first dance, so we had one simply choreographed to the song we had chosen; “Let the Words Escape” by Chris Rice. We had fun learning it together, but even more fun dancing on our special day.
“Love, you snuck up behind me… I thought I was hiding, but oh, how I fell for you.”
Our father daughter dance, done to “Through the Eyes of My Father” by Brianna Haynes. I cried every time I heard our song being played beforehand, but I wasn’t prepared for my Dad to be the one crying first as we got out onto the floor…
Precious faces that I miss.
Precious hugs, that I treasure.
Fun dancing with all the members of the English Country dance performance group!
Dancing was such a huge part of my single years, and it was special to have lots of it at our reception.
Especially when our guests could get out and enjoy it, too!
I have to brag on my brother and my dear friend and bridesmaid, Christa. They do the Charleston like no other dancing couple I know! When the song started playing, they totally busted some moves and everyone was watching and clapping in time.
I also have to brag on my younger brothers and the young men from my Church in Omaha… they acted as the waiters and served the luncheon meal to our 350 guests. They were amazing, and did a wonderful, “handsome” job! It really added a special flavor to our reception and was a very nice treat for us and our guests.
Before we left, I had made a point of asking our family and wedding party to gather with us in the foyer as our guests congregated outside with their bubbles in hand. I wanted to make sure that we had a quiet, special and private moment to say goodbye to those closest to us.
Final moment of the celebration, as time slowed and I took all the faces in one last time before we drove off… smiles, waves, overwhelming happiness and undeserved goodness poured out on us from the Lord… through our friends and loved ones.
Our day was so blessed. We praise the Lord for everyone who blessed us in so many ways that weekend. We praise Him for our wedding day; and every day that has passed since.
Happy nine months of marriage, Ashton!
Eight months today. Eight wonderful, beautiful months of being his- from the moment I wake up to his kiss, to the moment I fall asleep in his arms. Marriage really is beautiful, and he can be so romantic and caring and… perfect. Perfect for me!
Eight months today. Life is definitely real, with schedules and expenses and decisions and misunderstandings. We work and cry and try to plan, try to be diligent with our time, our resources. We fail, we disappoint, we fall on our knees still so in need of His sustaining grace.
Eight months today. Life is beautiful. After the honeymoon… the celebration, the newness, the vacation, when life slows down to show us our faults, then speeds up to test our resolve, we choose the beauty. Yes, it’s real. Yes, we have our moments. But from here on out, amidst the craziness, the lessons, the responsibilities, by God’s grace we will continue to choose joy as the theme to our covenant. It is a choice, and one we can make together, at the foot of the cross.
Happy eight months, my darling.
The birds woke me up at 6:30 with their beautiful calls and chirping, and when I peeked out our bedroom window I saw a beautiful, vibrant, pink-red sunrise. So I excitedly came out here to listen to the many birds and take in all the newness and quiet beginnings of this wonderful day. Last night, on Saturday, April 27th, Ashton got down on one knee and asked me to marry him. I said yes! I still can’t believe the beautiful sparkly diamond on my left hand is mine… that I am Ashton’s girl for now and forever. My heart is very full. I am so blessed… it really is a wonderful day to sing in welcoming- my first as the future Mrs. B and promised girl to Ashton. God has heard my prayers. And life is going to be quite the adventure!
One year ago today, a young man got down on not one, but both knees to ask for my hand in marriage. It was such a special day that seemed so short, yet so long in coming. While our three and a half months of courtship leading up to that point may have seemed fast to the onlookers, I went through many different stages of learning, growing and bonding in the time leading up to Ashton’s proposal. The Lord took me from “this isn’t going to work- I’m going to have to say no” to “when is this guy ever going to propose?!”.
By the time we reached April, we had talked through all the major issues, and I had grown to admire and respect this young man who was both patient with me, yet would make me laugh and push me out of my comfort zone. I distinctly remember sitting in my parents’ parlor as they asked me where I was at emotionally- if I was ready for the next stage. With an excited smile and butterflies in my stomach, I said that I was.
The weekend before Ashton proposed, I was out in Illinois visiting him and his family. By that point, we had talked over all the big issues, and seen each other work through something difficult. In other words, we really liked each other and were in that mysterious region of a relationship where we were hovering between the “get to know you” courtship stage, and engagement.
I tend to be rather dramatic and do the opposite of taking everything in stride, so merely two weeks into the “mystery” stage, I was anxious to move on to the next step. I also had my studio to consider… I wanted to be able to make the recital (which was quickly approaching) a goodbye to my students, and wanting to figure out the timing with that had me on pins and needles. I had to keep reminding myself to trust my Dad and Ashton, let them make the move, and leave the timing up to the Lord.
During my weekend with Ashton and his family, he would start to say something and then stop and say “I’ll save that for later”. All I could think was, “when?!”. Here was the guy who very seriously took the initiative in January, ready for a quick courtship and engagement, while I was the one asking to take more time. Now it seemed the roles were reversed. I was definitely ready for the “next stage”, but managed to keep my mouth shut and, again, trust the Lord for the timing of when he would pop the question.
We also went to a wedding the same weekend, which didn’t exactly help me stay focused. I tell people that I’ve become more emotional since being in a relationship, and it was definitely true as I teared up watching the bride walk down the aisle and exchange vows with her beloved. I couldn’t believe I was standing next to a guy I liked so much, who, unbeknownst to me, already had plans to ask me to be his bride.
I left Illinois on Sunday, and actually saw Ashton again the next day when he came to Omaha for work. I had no idea that over those two days – while I was busy with recital preparations- he was scouting out downtown Omaha, and planning the perfect proposal.
After a returning home for a few days, Ashton was back out to our place for another weekend. On Saturday we spent a leisurely morning with one of my girlfriends, who gave us a tour of a historic house, a local museum, and obligingly took photos of us throughout the beautiful April morning. We had planned to talk with my parents that evening about “how things were going” and decided to do it over dinner in the Old Market. Of course, I was wondering what all we had to talk about, since things were going just peachy!
We had reservations for a pretty classy restaurant, which was a treat, but since mom had coupons and an excuse to go I wasn’t suspicious. Ashton and I agreed we had to dress up, and as we were driving in the surprisingly warm evening weather, in my concern I asked the sweating Ashton if he wanted to take off his jacket. He insisted that he was fine, and to keep it on, and again I was clueless and thought nothing of it. (Later I found out that he had the ring in his jacket pocket…)
We arrived in the crowded shopping area ahead of our reservation, so we decided to walk around for a bit, and at one point walked by the horse-drawn carriages that are often used for rides in the Old Market. As we paused, Ashton randomly (and, as I might add, nonchalantly) asked if I wanted a ride.
I had never had a buggy ride and viewed such things as a rather romantic thing to do; where he puts his arm around her and they gaze dreamily into each others eyes. And, if one was doing it for purposes other than romance, it seemed rather touristy to me. Since we weren’t allowed to be romantic and I really hate to be watched by onlookers, I tried to answer vaguely. But, Ashton insisted that we do a carriage ride, so I reluctantly climbed in, looking down at my parents and asking if they were going with us, who smiled and shook their heads.
So off we went in the carriage, sitting side by side, riding around in the gorgeous night air, as I tried not to be self-conscious of all the passersby watching a couple ride together without holding hands or cozying up.
That Monday was a cold, rainy and snowy April day, but on Saturday the 27th it was beautiful and sunny. We enjoyed the peaceful carriage ride as we rode down the brick roads in the Old Market, finally stopping at a park surrounding a lake. The driver asked if we wanted to get out, which confused me… I didn’t know stopping to see the sights was a part of the ride. But I was still clueless, so Ashton helped me out of the carriage and we began walking down the stairs towards the lake.
When we got to the bottom of the stairs, Ashton said “let’s go over here” and led me underneath a trellis on a little brick path towards a stone bench. At that point I finally caught on to what was happening. Wow, it was actually happening!
We sat down on the bench as Ashton proceeded to say some sweet things (sorry, classified!), and within a moment was down on both knees in front of me, pulling a ring out of his jacket pocket, and asking me to be his wife. It’s hard to remember exactly all the thoughts and emotions that passed through my mind… this moment was so long awaited, it was hard to take it all in. Was this actually happening to me, was it actually my turn?
A hug, some tears, smiles, taking a closer look at the diamond ring, another hug… discovering the undercover photographer hidden in the trees, seeing my parents wave from the stairs, hearing cheers from a wedding party up on the street who had observed the proposal from afar off. More smiles, more tears.
Finally we stepped away from our little bench in Heartland of America park, hugged my parents who were waiting on the stairs… laughing over how clueless I was all day, how well the plan went… I always wanted a special, surprise proposal, and Ashton’s was perfect.
We climbed back into the carriage, leaning against each other, and finished the second half of the ride along the river, through a park, back to the Old Market where my parents were waiting for dinner. More hugs, more smiles. It was such a blessing to have a private proposal, and yet have my parents involved and present surrounding it.
We all had a wonderful dinner in a romantic setting at our own tables; at a classy restaurant with amazing food, brick walls and low lighting. (I didn’t realize it until my friend reminded me later, but that was the same restaurant I had said would have been perfect for a proposal dinner, when we had a girls’ outing together in 2008.) I don’t think wine glasses have ever been so sparkly, an atmosphere so serene, or a prayer before a meal so touching as it was when I had dinner holding hands with my fiance on the night of our proposal.
That evening we just relaxed… sitting on the couch watching “Sherlock” together. Kind of weird, but so comfortable and happy just to relax and sit next to each other on the couch. It’s getting pretty hard to not hold his hand, or put my head on his shoulder… I’m looking forward to the day when I don’t have to hold back.
My husband and I like to volunteer. We like people, we like to be around people, and we like to be around people while accomplishing some service or task. I’ve always enjoyed a behind-the-scenes perspective on events, whether it be warming up in the wings before a ballet production, hitting the streets during a campaign, or working as an advocate for women at a Pregnancy Center. I always hated that feeling of being “left out”, and loved the idea of making friends and connections through the giving of my time and resources.
I definitely married the right guy to partner with in making connections. We both have our strengths and weaknesses when it comes to stepping out, but thankfully they complement each other. I am an idea person and can help Ashton take the initiative, and he helps me to be bold where I tend to people-please or try to back down for fear of messing up.
In our six months of marriage so far, we’ve definitely taken it pretty easy (the valid excuse: we’re newlyweds…). But we don’t like to sit still for too long, so we attended local Right to Life Board meetings, attended a local missions banquet, sang in a choir for a pro-life event, and called a few English Country dances. Oh, and we voted (one vote at a time, people!).
The pro-life event where we sang in the choir was held at a beautiful Church. The building had previously been a theater, with a large balcony, a sizable stage with wings, and enough cozy seats for 1,200 people. The event featured a speaker brought in from out-of-State, local Right to Life members, and a Church choir. The purpose was to raise awareness, funds, and prayer towards the cause of saving babies in Peoria.
The beautiful theater-style Church felt a bit empty as we sang out to around 100 people sitting in the closer rows, the balcony dark and vacant. A good portion of the attendees were nuns and Catholics, some of them representatives of the Right to Life organization, and the rest mostly members of one Church… which is not even located in Peoria. The professing believers of Peoria made a sad statement in their absence: “too busy… other priorities”.
Flash forward 2 months to when Ashton and I found ourselves back at the same location, only this time the event was for a Tim Hawkins concert. We arrived 10 minutes before the doors opened to find a line stretching to the end of the block, despite the cold wind and low temperatures. As doors opened we wound through the crowd to squeeze into our seats as the room filled with the buzz of the crowd. The event was sold out that evening, and that was the second concert that day. Around 2,000 people excitedly arriving to fill their seats for a time of laughter.
Don’t get me wrong, laughter is great, and we definitely enjoyed ourselves. Tim Hawkins is using his talents to bless people and honor the Lord, which I very much appreciate. However, it was a sad contrast and may have given a glimpse as to where the Christians of Peoria have placed their priorities.
Of course as humans we like things that are funny, that make us laugh and feel good about ourselves. It was easy for those 2,400 people to put down their money to attend a fun-filled event. It was much harder for them to give up two hours of their time to hear real stories of lives being torn apart, and other lives being saved… which is why they simply didn’t.
I may be ranting about the situation in my current city, and I may have hopes to help connect and inspire Christians- as the Lord enables us to- in this same city to get involved. However, this is not a Peoria problem. It’s a Christian problem worldwide. We love our time, and for many of us there seems to be too little of it. As school, extra-curricular and fun family activities squeeze into the cracks of our daily schedules, the tear-jerking, nitty gritty ministry opportunities get squeezed out. “Too busy… other priorities.”
How do we balance the fun of life, the laughter, the times of refreshment and joy with the messy, the painful, the hard hands-and-knees ministry to a fallen world? Life is full of balances; priorities, time, energy, relationships, ministry, resources. But if we must err on one side, may we err on the side of pouring ourselves out for others, and, in essence, for Christ. I know my husband and I will continue to struggle with the question of how to spend our time, especially as our family grows in the future. But when in doubt, we have only to flip to Matthew 25 for a priority check…
“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’
“Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’
May the Lord give the ever-erring children of our generation the grace, the wisdom, and the conviction to be His hands and feet in a fallen world.
My husband and I have been so blessed with a smooth and easy transition into married life. We were just happily and calmly cruising through six months of marriage, and then we crashed. Like, literally. We were actually on our way to see a house that we’re interested in when someone made a blind left turn and forced us to introduce ourselves to a rather stubborn electric pole and a McDonalds sign. And then they hit the driver’s side of our car just to make sure we were fully awakened from our newlywed stupor.
While we praise God for protection from serious bodily injury, we are now wading through the highly inconvenient mess of insurance negotiations, pain and soreness from the impact, chiropractor visits, and shopping for a new vehicle; instead of a house. All of this comes with, oh, you know… stress. At least, enough to give the aforementioned newlyweds something less smooth and easy to talk about and work through. And while we plan to avoid little blue cars turning left and McDonalds signs, the result of working through the recovery process isn’t all bad… because our God uses everything for good. Now why do I feel like that’s going to be important to remember in the future?
As young newlyweds currently renting an apartment, the most expensive property we’ve owned is our vehicle. Thus, buying a new one is a rather big deal. We want to plan for a family down the road but also stay within our budget. We want decent gas mileage but something we feel safe in. And the list goes on. As we only have our rental for a few more days, we feel the need to simply reach a decision… plus, we wouldn’t mind having our lives back and talking about something other than car models and choices and pros and cons.
While there are many things this somewhat frustrating and a teensy bit stressful situation has taught us (among them the fact that my husband is awesome), there’s one in particular that I feel is unique to believers: trust in the perfect timing and providence of an almighty God. I honestly can’t imagine going through life feeling the pressure of decisions that are at the mercy of “fate”. I’m already prone to being anxious when things are out of my control; I’d be a serious nail biter for sure.
My husband and I were completely confident and at peace walking away from a good potential car, knowing that we could really think on it, pray about it, and if it was the car for us the Lord would prevent it from being sold. I honestly believe this type of peace has prevented us from from making hasty and unwise decisions. I also can’t help but feel that these lessons and reminders are rather timely for us… as we look ahead to the future with the purchase of a home, the raising of a family, and numerous decisions to make along the way, a complete trust in the timing and plan of the Lord will undoubtedly be the best safeguard against unwise moves, and the best kind of comfort and stress-reliever there is.
No contracts, no money, no background checks, loans or government safety net. Our trust in the Lord God comes only at the price of our pride and selfishness. And if we can learn to daily lay our sins, fears and anxieties down at His feet, I think we can boldly expect and eagerly look forward to a future of blessing and wonderful promises. I don’t know about you, but I think that’s pretty awesome.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.”
Our Wedding Ceremony
Some very good friends from my Church were kind enough to decorate the beautiful Church for the ceremony, even though they had so much going on at the time. Everything looked so lovely and elegant!
I asked our moms to light the candles up front. I love them both so much… throughout the ceremony, it was so very special to have both sets of parents involved in unique ways as we became husband and wife.
The moment waiting behind the doors, trying to breath and take in the realization that it’s here… it’s happening… holding on to my father’s arm, listening for my song. It was quite surreal. As they opened the doors and we began to walk out, and I saw my groom at the front of the room waiting for me, felt all 350 pairs of eyes on our entrance… it was immediately a struggle to smile without crying. When I first saw the photos, I was disappointed at how very solemn we looked. But also, as I look back at them now, I remember what a big moment it was, and how my heart was so filled with all the sensations of endings and beginnings, that all I could do was hold back tears of happiness and thankfulness.
This is one of my favorite shots from the ceremony… the perspective of all our friends and family gathered to celebrate with us and witness our union, and our dear friends on either side to support us. So, so blessed!
Lighting our unity candle as my bridesmaids, Christa and Miriam, sang our song “My Heart is Filled with Thankfulness”. I first heard that song when Ashton and I were courting, as we stood side by side at his Church one Sunday, singing the lyrics. At that time, I was in the beginning stages of bonding with this young man, and learning about him as a potential spouse. My heart was touched by the words as I reflected on how very thankful I was to be standing next to the man who was courting me… and when it came time to plan for the wedding, I knew I wanted it to be played. And… just as it was a struggle to hold back grateful tears during the Church service as a courting woman, I had difficulty holding back tears as I looked into my husband’s eyes on our wedding day.
Finally, the kiss! We had agreed that we wanted to wait until our wedding day for our first kiss. However, we had seen plenty of somewhat awkward first kisses, and while those are sweet in their own way, we wanted to communicate and be prepared to perform in front of 350 people (i.e. put your hands here, turn your head this way). We agreed that a nice, classic dip would be the way to go, and it went splendidly. Perfectly timed, not too long and not too short. Ashton did a wonderful job. One of my bridesmaids confirmed that it was “non-awkward”, so our mission was accomplished! With our smiling fathers looking on, and everyone clapping, we were so grateful for the special moment that we waited for.
And then Ashton got all excited and went in for a peck on the cheek… and then for a third kiss, right on the lips. If you happened to be there and wondered, that was the unrehearsed portion of the ceremony. Needless to say, kissing is one of Ashton’s favorite things to do.
I also happened to be a bit giddy in my own way, forgetting that we had to be announced as husband and wife. I was already down the steps and on the floor when it happened, tugging my husband of five minutes along with me, until he slowed me down and my wonderful sister and maid-of-honor prompted me to take my bouquet back. We paused, were announced as Mr. and Mrs. Ashton Bandy, and joyfully marched out. As special, joyful, and momentous as our ceremony was, we were glad to have said our vows (written ourselves and said from memory- no stumbling!), gotten through the little details (only a few minor ones were overlooked), and now we could move on to the party.