Called to be Sheep

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.

Right to Life

Right to Life

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.

Tim Hawkins

Tim Hawkins

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.”

Tim Hawkins in Peoria

Tim Hawkins in Peoria

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.’

Matthew 25:31-40

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. 

Providential insurance

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.

Our trusty little Honda post-impact

Our trusty little Honda post-impact

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.

Car-shopping day and an impromptu coffee date

Car-shopping day and an impromptu coffee date

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.”

-Proverbs 3:5-6

 

 

Our wedding (part four)

Our Wedding Ceremony
View More: http://kathryngracephotography.comSome 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!

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Our unity candleView More: http://kathryngracephotography.pass.us/ashtonjenniferwedding

Mother-of-the-groom being escorted inView More: http://kathryngracephotography.pass.us/ashtonjenniferwedding

Father-of-the-groom. Big moments!View More: http://kathryngracephotography.pass.us/ashtonjenniferwedding

Mother-of-the-brideView More: http://kathryngracephotography.pass.us/ashtonjenniferwedding

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.View More: http://kathryngracephotography.pass.us/ashtonjenniferwedding

Our adorable ring bearer and flower girls… decked out in a little man suit, and ballerina tutus, leotards, tights and shoes. Quite appropriate if you ask me!View More: http://kathryngracephotography.pass.us/ashtonjenniferwedding

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. View More: http://kathryngracephotography.pass.us/ashtonjenniferwedding

View More: http://kathryngracephotography.pass.us/ashtonjenniferwedding

 

The transfer of hands, and with it, the authority and protection from one man to another. Such a simple gesture, yet such a big moment of change in my life.
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View More: http://kathryngracephotography.pass.us/ashtonjenniferwedding

View More: http://kathryngracephotography.pass.us/ashtonjenniferwedding

We were so grateful for the wonderful sermon on Psalm 128 from my Pastor. View More: http://kathryngracephotography.pass.us/ashtonjenniferwedding

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!View More: http://kathryngracephotography.pass.us/ashtonjenniferwedding

Smiles for the future.View More: http://kathryngracephotography.pass.us/ashtonjenniferwedding

The Church was so gorgeous, the sun streaming in. Our day was beautiful in so many ways. View More: http://kathryngracephotography.pass.us/ashtonjenniferwedding

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The exchanging of rings… a token…
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We were so thrilled to have our fathers lead the key parts of the ceremony; the exchanging of vows and rings, the prayers and blessings, the pronouncement of marriage. View More: http://kathryngracephotography.pass.us/ashtonjenniferwedding

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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. View More: http://kathryngracephotography.pass.us/ashtonjenniferwedding

View More: http://kathryngracephotography.pass.us/ashtonjenniferwedding

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). View More: http://kathryngracephotography.pass.us/ashtonjenniferweddingWe 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.

 

kissing collage

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. 😀View More: http://kathryngracephotography.pass.us/ashtonjenniferwedding

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.

Our wedding (part three)

The handsome groom, awaiting his bride
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Waiting for the all clear… oh the anticipation!
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Waiting…

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First look…
first look collage

When Ashton is overwhelmed or very surprised, he tends to mask his emotions with a very calm expression, and it doesn’t really register until later. I learned this when I surprised him by arriving in Illinois a day early during a visit when we were engaged. So when he turned and saw me in my white lacy gown for the first time, dressed up just for my groom on the morning of our wedding day, I knew his calm smile spoke volumes.

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Precious quiet moments, before we became swept up in the events of the day.

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Such joy… 9 months of holding back, 9 months of waiting. Finally, the end, and yet just the beginning!

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That morning was so perfect, so lovely to be out on the green lawn, taking photos with my groom.View More: http://kathryngracephotography.pass.us/ashtonjenniferwedding

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He’s mine!

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And I am his.

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Such utter happiness! (Also, smiling all day is exhausting.)

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View More: http://kathryngracephotography.pass.us/ashtonjenniferwedding

In the arms of my beloved… the best place on earth. I waited 23 years to be held, and it was ever so worth the wait. View More: http://kathryngracephotography.pass.us/ashtonjenniferwedding

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View More: http://kathryngracephotography.pass.us/ashtonjenniferwedding

As our amazing, cheerful photographers fluttered around me, it was somewhat surreal to be having my bridal photos taken, just hours away from saying my vows. View More: http://kathryngracephotography.pass.us/ashtonjenniferwedding

Pearls, similar to the ones my mom wore on her wedding day…

View More: http://kathryngracephotography.pass.us/ashtonjenniferwedding

View More: http://kathryngracephotography.pass.us/ashtonjenniferwedding

So many wedding details came together wonderfully, thanks to our amazing helpers and volunteers! But one thing I was ecstatic about was our flowers. Ordered wholesale with the selection help of my dear bridesmaid, Gabrielle, and arranged the day before by my bridesmaids and myself, they turned out exactly like I hoped they would.
View More: http://kathryngracephotography.pass.us/ashtonjenniferwedding

View More: http://kathryngracephotography.pass.us/ashtonjenniferwedding

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I’m actually getting ahead of myself in the order of the day, since these photos were taken after the ceremony, as we exited the front of the Church… but they are epic!View More: http://kathryngracephotography.pass.us/ashtonjenniferwedding

I knew Ashton was planning a surprise getaway car, but I had no idea what kind of car it was. When we stepped out of the front doors of the Church, and I saw it parked in the street, I was so very surprised and delighted!View More: http://kathryngracephotography.pass.us/ashtonjenniferwedding

We took our mandatory kissing photos, post-ceremony, before driving to the reception hall…View More: http://kathryngracephotography.pass.us/ashtonjenniferwedding

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Oh how I love this man.

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The car, in all it’s glory! I loved everything about it… the classic, elegant vintage style, the gorgeous muted color, the quant older gentleman who acted as our cheerful chauffeur…View More: http://kathryngracephotography.pass.us/ashtonjenniferwedding

And I do believe our photographer was in heaven, too…

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View More: http://kathryngracephotography.pass.us/ashtonjenniferwedding

And it totally worked with my wedding colors!

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Feeling like a very pampered bride. My guy knew exactly what I would have wanted… from the rings he picked out, to the way he proposed, to the car he picked as our getaway vehicle. View More: http://kathryngracephotography.pass.us/ashtonjenniferwedding

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View More: http://kathryngracephotography.pass.us/ashtonjenniferwedding

Our photographer took some rather epic, vintage-looking photos… View More: http://kathryngracephotography.pass.us/ashtonjenniferwedding

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So delighted!View More: http://kathryngracephotography.pass.us/ashtonjenniferwedding

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Our driver, Tom, was such a fun chauffeur. As we rolled along, the sunshine glinting on the passing cars, headed to our reception, he would whistle in the front seat. Our heads together, hands held, sitting close… stealing a kiss here and there. What a gorgeous Saturday, our wedding day.
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Photo credit: Kathryn Grace Photography

Journal Entry- Monday, March 4th 2013

Yesterday was the big day- Ashton and I (or rather, our Dads) announced our courtship at our Churches. So, it’s official now! We were both actually a little nervous, I think, for some reason. It just means that now people are watching, and of course expecting this to result in marriage. That’s what we’re “expecting” as well, but it’s still just a courtship with potential to be ended at any time. As I get to know Ashton more, start to “like” him more, AND try to plan for this Fall regarding my studio, somehow I have to keep that possibility in the back of my mind. 
The other day Ashton and I chatted for 3 hours. 3 hours! I was surprised at how easy it was to let time slip away from us. I always wondered how couples could come up with enough to say to talk for hours at a time. I guess I’m figuring it out!

Our wedding (part two)

http://www.kathryngracephotography.comAs we girls were finishing up hair and makeup, the guys headed over to a lovely historical museum called the Joslyn Castle. It has beautiful grounds, a gorgeous stone house, and also happens to be the place where my students had their recital photos taken last Spring. It was such a beautiful, perfect September morning to take wedding photos…

http://www.kathryngracephotography.comShowing off their socks

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http://www.kathryngracephotography.comAshton picked a fun group of guys to stand up with him on our wedding day…Best man

Groom and Best man

http://www.kathryngracephotography.comWe girls arrived at the castle grounds as the guys were finishing up groomsmen photos. I remember the drive over, sitting in the back seat, chatting with my bridesmaids, thinking… this sunny day seems so oddly calm and normal, and yet so exciting at the same time.

http://www.kathryngracephotography.comMy girls… wow, am I blessed. They came from Alabama, Iowa, Illinois, and Idaho to laugh, cry and rejoice with me on the biggest day of my life.

http://www.kathryngracephotography.comGod is so good. These wonderful ladies don’t even know how very special and meaningful their presence and love was to me on my wedding day.

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http://www.kathryngracephotography.comThese three girls have been dear sisters in Christ for years. We developed friendships through long distance emails and phone calls, sharing prayer requests for future husbands, talking through struggles, working through differences and ultimately coming out on the other side more grateful than ever for the friends the Lord places in our lives. It was such a joy to have them with me on the day we so often prayed for in years past!

http://www.kathryngracephotography.com

Maid of honor

 

Oh, the memories I have with my sister! Growing up together in the country, we had a lot of fun getting creative and using our imaginations together. She may seem quiet to some, but I remember plenty of times when she stood up for me as my older sister. She was my chauffeur to dance lessons, the one I whispered secrets to when we were supposed to be asleep, my campaigning buddy, my partner in crime. We did so many things together, whether it be volunteering, dancing, traveling, or simply sharing our desires for the future. Out of us seven kids, with 5 being boys, the Lord gave me a sister… and I am so thankful for her!

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The wedding party

View More: http://kathryngracephotography.pass.us/ashtonjenniferweddingPrior to the ceremony, so only a kiss on the cheek was allowed. However, I will say that while we made up for it with our own epic kiss during the ceremony, I find a gentle peck on the cheek quite endearing.
http://www.kathryngracephotography.comButtons, flowers, lace and diamond rings… these are a few of my favorite things.

http://www.kathryngracephotography.comAshton and I don’t have any young relatives who could be flower girls, so the daughter of a dear family from Church (who also took dance lessons from me), and the daughter of one of Ashton’s friends (also a groomsman) served as the cute factor on our wedding day. Kate and Peace did a wonderful job, decked out in their leotards, purple tutus, tights and ballet slippers.

http://www.kathryngracephotography.comKaleb is one of the little boys from my Church in Omaha. He was such a little man in his adorable suit!

http://www.kathryngracephotography.comCue melting.

http://www.kathryngracephotography.comThese four young men from Ashton’s Church not only drove out to attend the wedding, but were kind enough to serve as ushers. We had so many people who stepped in and got involved in our wedding… we felt so incredibly blessed!

http://www.kathryngracephotography.com

The bride’s side

The groom’s side

I am so thankful to the Lord for my family. Three generations are represented in these family photos, and Ashton and I are excited to see what the Lord has in store for our future generations as we submit our marriage to Him.

View More: http://kathryngracephotography.pass.us/ashtonjenniferweddingOur dear parents, who raised us to walk in the fear of the Lord, and prepared us for this day. They poured out so much in 2013 as they walked us through courtship, counseled us through engagement, and did so much to prepare for our wedding. We are so grateful for the godly heritage of our parents. The coming together of two families as Ashton and I became one was a beautiful and joyful thing…

View More: http://kathryngracephotography.pass.us/ashtonjenniferweddingCatching a quick photo with my friend, who also happens to be my mom.

Journal Entry- Saturday, February 23rd 2013

Romans 15:13- “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”
What encouragement! He is the God of hope. May I “abound in hope” as I step out in faith and, by God’s grace, continue to grow in joy and total trust in His promises. 
So… Dad sent “the” email to the B’s, which means that I’m officially courting Ashton! (Or rather, he is courting me.) Oh boy! It’s still a bit unreal. May God be glorified! He is so good!

How to take a city

About a year and a half  ago I was in Burtigny, Switzerland, preparing for my trip home to the States and wondering what God would have in store for me. I found myself praying about my future spouse and wondering if he would be my “next adventure”, or what project and task the Lord would give me. One morning, up in the attic of the YWAM base, I was reading through Proverbs 16 and underlined verse 32:

“Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.”

Underneath the verse I wrote “on the list for a future husband”. While I never really had a written list for my future spouse, at the time it really hit me that Proverbs had a lot to say about things to look for in a man. I knew that I needed a steady yet driven man, who would keep me grounded when I get overly dramatic or emotional (it happens), but at the same time be the driving force in our marriage and family… one who is not afraid of adventure, of doing new things. Of course, a good sense of romance, cleanliness, a willingness to help with dishes, and good looks don’t hurt either.

But being slow to anger… that’s not quality a girl always thinks to be attracted to first. I wanted him to be driven, adventurous, fun, a culture-changer, a leader… but the above verse was a good reminder that before he “takes a city” (to me that meant political involvement, travel, missions, public speaking, hospitality, etc.) he needs to be able to maturely control his frustrations. One of the qualifications of a Church leader is that he first display correct leadership of his family within the home. In the same way, while I desired to find a “knight” who I could adventure alongside, who would fight nobly for Christ’s cause within our culture, I first needed a man who would be patient with my shortcomings at home. I needed a man who would speak calmly even when frustrated, be willing to listen… one who would not quickly burst out his opinions or feelings without considering his words or tempering his mood.

Of course, no one is perfect, and even the seemingly calmest of personalities can be angered and stirred up. However, in terms of what I need and desired in a man, God provided abundantly in my husband. I am daily blessed by the character the Lord gave him, and can testify to the fact that God can indeed bring along that knight in “shining armor”, who possesses both drive and strength as well as humility and meekness.

9-21-13

9-21-13

Happy five months of marriage, Ashton!

Journal Entry- Monday, February 18th 2013

Psalm 61:2- “Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”
Wow. What a weekend. I think this past weekend was the weirdest of my entire life… thus far. I’m definitely feeling “shakeable” and in need of a rock to stand on- a heavenly father to lean on and trust when my heart is overwhelmed and my mind confused. Who knew my life could be this dramatic? I didn’t. 
So yes, I’m a girl and a hopeless romantic. The attention, comments, chocolates, wine, opening doors for me… if nothing else, my doubts over him taking the initiative and really trying were definitely alleviated! 
 

Journal Entry- Monday, February 11th 2013

Ashton and Grace arrive on Friday so we are cleaning and coming up with a meal plan. Getting a bit more excited about this weekend, but also really clinging to Proverbs 3:5-6. Trying not to trust in my own heart but really seek the Lord and His will. I feel more at peace and positive, so it must be working. 
To God be the glory in this week ahead!