Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Looking Back on 2013

December 31st always has a way of making me reflect, and this year is no different. 2013 has been a whirlwind of a year for us--but a blessed one at that! This time last year, we still lived in Louisville. We were interviewing with a couple of churches back in Arkansas, but we were thinking our timeline to move was more like May or June. Obviously, the Lord had other plans!

In early January, the doctor I worked for fell deathly ill and it was questionable if he would recover (and if he did, would he come back to work?). Since I was the main source of income for our little family, if I wasn't able to work, then we were in deep trouble. After discussing our options and having some serious prayer time, we immediately called our families and explained our situation. They agreed with our line of thinking--either the Lord was going to provide a job for Daniel in the immediate future or we were moving back in with my parents and would continue to look for employment at that time.

Daniel also called both churches to let them know our situation and to see if either one could move up the interview process. We were both praying that the Lord would make our path clear and boy, did He ever! The church in Conway told us they had decided to hire someone else, so that left First Baptist in Fort Smith. They were very willing to work with us and moved up our interview date so we could make things happen faster. Over the next 30 days: I turned in my 2-weeks notice to my job, we interviewed and they hired us, we found a house in Fort Smith to rent, we found a moving company and they packed up our entire apartment in a day, and we made the 600 mile trek back home! We officially moved in to Fort Smith on February 17th.

Since then, Daniel has graduated with his Master's degree from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, he is fitting in beautifully well at the church and we could not feel more blessed with his ministry work there, I (still) could not find a job in my field so I am currently a nanny to an adorable 10 month old little girl, my sister got engaged and we have been having a blast planning her wedding for next May in Florida, and we have started looking for a house to buy! Whew!

I feel like the blessings have just continued to pour on--and to be honest, I am a little overwhelmed and humbled by it all. While we miss our friends in Louisville, it is such a dream to be only 2 hours away from our families and especially to be back in the state of Arkansas! The Lord is so good and His mercies are new every morning. It sure is going to be fun to see what He has in store for our family in 2014!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

5 Years

November 23, 2008.

Daniel came over to my parent's house and asked their permission to date me. Can I just insert here that it absolutely floored me! I had never had a guy tell me they wanted my parent's permission and it made me like him (and respect him) that much more. 

Now, FIVE years later (can't believe that), it's so neat to look back on all that has transpired in that short amount of time: I started and finished x-ray school, we got engaged, the Lord provided Daniel's first job and a place for us to live in North Little Rock, we got married, I graduated, we moved 525 miles away to Louisville, I worked two part time jobs, we went into debt by taking out loans for Daniel's school, we found deep and lifelong friendships at Seminary, our car died so we had to go into more debt and get another one, the Lord provided Daniel's job in Fort Smith and allowed us to move home, and Daniel graduated from Seminary with his Master's degree (trust me--this is just a brief overview). 

The Lord has been so faithful. I am humbled at His grace and mercy bestowed upon us again and again and again. His ways are definitely better than mine! If you had asked me five years ago what my life would look like, I don't think I would've said anything close to what it's actually been. 

It makes me giddy and excited to think what God has in store for us the next five years! Hopefully it includes settling down more, purchasing a house, and starting a family at some point. :) 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Our Love Story: Part 6

Wedding week.

It was finally here! The week leading up to MY wedding was here! The church told us we could start decorating Monday morning, so we moved all the wrought iron candelabras and lanterns, the tulle and the lights, bubbles, extra candles--so much goes into a wedding! On Tuesday, Kaitlyn arrived from Texas so she could be apart of all the festivities. Wednesday we had the Bridesmaid's Luncheon--that was so fun! My family provided delicious food and it was just time spent with some of my best friends in the world, celebrating them and letting them know how special they were (and still are) to me.

At the Bridesmaid's Luncheon! (Kaitlyn, Hannah, me, Leslyn, Audrey--missing Sarah and Jessica!)

The mom's! Daniel's mom, Pam and my mom, Missy

My mom, me, and my grandmothers

Thursday the girls hosted my Bachelorette party--nothing crazy! They took me to dinner in Little Rock and then we came back and celebrated with dessert from Cupcakes on Kavanaugh (a delicious gourmet cucpakery) and played some fun games.

Friday, June 18.

Daniel's 23rd birthday! I drove down to Little Rock and met him for breakfast at a cute little diner. When we got ready to pay, our waitress told us our ticket was already paid for. We inquired about who paid for it and she told us one of the gentlemen eating earlier noticed my car out front that said "Bride" and "Getting Married." He wanted to give that to us as a wedding gift. I've never had anyone do that for me before and I was so touched! Later that evening we had our rehearsal at the church followed by a dinner at the Country Club. I just remember thinking to myself, "I'm getting married TOMORROW! And it's not a dream!"
the Bridal Party at the rehearsal dinner

We went around and talked with everyone, thanking them again for their part in our lives and in the wedding and suddenly, it was just us. Daniel took me out to his car, reached in the backseat and pulled out a package. "Happy Wedding Day tomorrow." 

Smiling, I took the package from him and inside was a little black box (every girl's FAVORITE present). I opened it and inside lay beautiful pearl earrings. I ooohed and aahhhed over them and promised to pack them in my suitcase so I could wear them the next week. Then it was my turn! I gave him my package and said, "Happy Wedding Day tomorrow." He opened it and smiled---it was a brand new ESV Bible and I had his name engraved (the binding was literally falling off in his other Bible). I also wrote a note on the inside cover:

"To my husband:

Today is a special day. We are joining our lives together so that we will be 'one' forever. I want this Bible to symbolize that start of our spiritual marriage. Use it as a tool and a guide to be the leader I know that you are. I love you more than anything in this world and I consider it an honor and a privilege to stand by you for the rest of my life."

"It's perfect. I will treasure it always."It was time to say goodbye, but THIS goodbye was the best one yet because in 24 hours, I would never have to say goodbye again! I got home and my mom, sister, and I stayed up talking until midnight. I tried to fall asleep, but it's like that scene in the Father of the Bride, where Annie wakes up her dad playing basketball outside and tells him she can't sleep because it feels like she's turning in her key; it's her last night in her room and in her bed in her parent's house. I think I finally drifted off around 2 am.

June 19, 2010.

I opened my eyes to sunlight streaming in my room. It took me a second to orient myself before it hit me, "It's my wedding day." A huge grin split my face as I got up, brushed my teeth, and walked downstairs to find my mom in the kitchen already cooking breakfast. "Good morning BRIDE."

"Good morning."

"I made your favorite to celebrate--biscuits with chocolate gravy, bacon, and eggs." My ever-thoughtful mom, she'd probably been planning on this breakfast from the time I was 5 years old. That breakfast was one of the most treasured and surreal moments of my life--it was the last time I would ever sit at the same breakfast table with my family as an unmarried woman. It was so special! After we all finished and the kitchen was clean, my mom looked at me and said, "Want to go see how the reception decorations are coming along?" I gave her a grin as my answer. We loaded up in the car and headed to the Country Club where everything was already moving in full swing! My grandparents were there along with several other people from our church who volunteered to pitch in and help out. They were utterly transforming the place! Tables were being setup and dressed with tablecloths and vases that were yet to be filled with flowers; the mantle was being lavished with greenery and purple hydrangeas; the food tables were also getting a makeover with stunning purple vases that were sure to be filled with even more flowers. It was so much to take in!

My grandparents expertly decorating the mantle

My aunt creating a beautiful floral arrangement

Before I knew it, it was time to head to the church to get ready. Every girl dreams about getting her hair and makeup done on the day of her wedding and now that it was here, it was everything I imagined it would be--girl talk and fussing over everyone's dresses and shoes and jewelry and hair products. So fun! The girls helped me get into my dress and then I turned around so my mom could put my veil in my hair. Now, I had done really well up until this point not to cry. But when I turned around and looked my mom in the eye, it hit me like a ton of bricks. The weight of what I was about to do left me breathless and tears sprang to my eyes. She teared up too and hugged me, telling me she was proud of me and that everything was going to be alright.

We took pictures ahead of time for two reasons: 1) it was a better opportunity for us to spend time together alone and 2) it helped with the wait time afterwards. I got nervous before I walked in to see him! But suddenly, there he was smiling back at me, and I knew that everything was going to be alright and that it was the best day of our lives. It was a really special moment and I'm so glad we chose to do it that way. 

After pictures, my bridesmaids circled around me and prayed over me and our marriage. Such a sweet time! I truly felt the Lord's presence, celebrating our union. Before I walked out of the room, Kaitlyn took me aside and whispered, "I've been praying that God would allow you to slow down and remember the small details of today--that it won't just be a blur." She's the best. I had told her months before, one of my fears was that I wouldn't remember anything about my wedding day, that it would all be a blur and a rush of dresses and flowers and people. I completely calmed down after that. Music started playing. They opened the doors and the grandparents got escorted, then the moms, then it was the bridesmaids and my niece and nephews as the flower girl and ring bearers. And then, it was just me and my dad. I looked over at him and he winked at me. And then it was time. 

I had always daydreamed about walking down the aisle to my soul mate. I figured I would be totally calm and slowly walk down, smiling as everyone looked on. I remember it so vividly. The doors opened and it was like I was in a trance. I had tunnel vision and all I could see was Daniel down the aisle waiting for me; the music and the people and the lights and the flowers--all of it receded. All I remember about the walk down is my dad whispering to me, "You might want to slow down a little." 

I made it to the end. My dad handed me over, placing my hand in Daniel's. I don't remember all of the Pastor's words to us. But I do remember the vows we said to each other--the ones we wrote together one winter night. I remember the unity sand ceremony--we chose sand because it symbolized where we got engaged. I remember after the unity sand ceremony when our parents came up to the stage and encircled us, praying over our marriage (I'm told there was not a dry eye in the room after that).

 I remember placing the ring on Daniel's finger and proclaiming my love for him in front of God, our family and our friends. I remember the Pastor saying, "You may kiss the bride." And I remember hearing behind me, "It is my pleasure to introduce to you for the first time, Mr. and Mrs. Daniel Lowery." WE DID IT! We were married! 

It was the best day of my life. I  will forever be humbled and grateful that God chose Daniel to be my partner in life. He is perfect for me in every way. Where I am weak, he is strong. And where we are both weak, the Lord is strong enough. I have learned a lot about marriage the past three years. We have gone through highs and lows and we've had our fair share of fights. But at the end of the day, the Lord is faithful and Daniel is still the man I choose to love for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part. And I wouldn't have it any other way. 

The End. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Our Love Story: Part 5

Daniel had been acting weird the whole plane ride. I kept asking him what was wrong to which he would reply, "Nothing's wrong. I'm fine." Yeah, ok. But, I shrugged it off because I was determined that we were going to have a fun weekend at the beach. We land and head to our condo where my family was waiting for us. We had a great time catching up and playing games long into the night.

Saturday morning we got up early and headed out for a fun-filled day at the beach. As we came inside later that afternoon to shower and get cleaned up, Daniel told me he had a surprise waiting for me. I absolutely LOVE surprises, so I hurried and got ready so I could see what it was! He took me out onto the balcony of the condo and told me, "I know you're birthday is still a couple days away, but I want you to wear this to the wedding tonight." He pulled out a beautiful, sparkly bracelet and clasped it on my wrist. (Being the sly fox he is, he was distracting me with this gift so I wouldn't have a clue that he was going to propose to me the next day). A huge grin broke out on my face and all I could think about was how thoughtful and romantic he was. We headed down to the beach for the wedding, which was absolutely beautiful, and then we danced the night away after eating wonderful seafood at the reception.

As we were saying goodnight to each other, Daniel asked me, "Since we leave to head home tomorrow, do you want to go for a walk on the beach at sunrise with me?"

"That would be great!"

"Ok. How about you meet me outside about 6:15 or so? Sunrise is at 6:30 so that gives us time to get down there to see it."

August 2, 2009.  My mom and my sister got up at 6:00 telling me that Hannah wanted to try out her new camera on the sunrise. Now, that SHOULD have tipped me off that something was going on because my sister is NOT a morning person! But, I honestly think God just pulled a veil over the logical part of my brain cause I totally went with it. I got up to go meet Daniel so we could head out for our walk.

"How did you sleep?"

"Uh, not good. I tossed and turned all night long."

Again, another clue that I should've picked up on. He is a light sleeper though AND he was on a pull out couch, so I didn't think anything else of it. We got down to the beach and as we started walking I was just talking about stuff that really didn't matter and he was being extremely quiet. (Another clue. See the pattern developing here?) We turned around to head back and he started talking about sunrises and how they symbolize a fresh start to a new day and a new chapter--getting all philosophical on me. And then he lightened up with our joke, "Are you sure you want to marry me?"

"YES! For the thousandth time, I am absolutely sure I want to marry you!"

The next part seemed like a dream. He immediately stopped and dropped to one knee and my mouth dropped open. He pulled out the most beautiful ring I had ever seen (way more than I was even expecting) and asked me those words every girl dreams of hearing from the time she is five years old. "Will you marry me?"

I was so stunned and disbelieving it was actually happening that the first words that came out of my mouth were , "Shut up!"

He laughed. "I'm being serious! So is that a yes?"

"Yes!" I hugged him so hard I almost knocked him over. He stood up, took my left hand and pulled my purity ring off my finger to replace it with the beautiful diamond. I still couldn't believe this was real life. "Your mom and sister and aunt are down there taking pictures of us." What? I hadn't even noticed anyone else on the beach. I was in my own little dream world. We walked down and gave hugs to everyone and then headed up to the condo to break the news to the rest of the family. We were engaged!

On the 12-hour drive home, we made a lot of wedding plans. We looked at our calendar and decided our best option for the wedding was Saturday, June 19, 2010. It was the day after Daniel's birthday, but we really didn't have a choice. He told me he would agree only if I made them separate celebrations for the rest of our life! The months flew by as we both started back to school and continued with wedding plans. My parents had two stipulations for us to get married--Daniel had to be graduated and he had to find a job to support us that also provided health insurance. He started looking for jobs in January 2010. We continued to pray and nothing was happening; doors just continued to close right and left. He graduated in May and STILL did not have a single lead to a job--we were starting to get anxious as the wedding was only a month away!

May 31, 2010. We were running errands that morning when he got a phone call from his home church in North Little Rock, AR. I knew something big was happening, because this was totally out of the blue and he was sitting there with a stunned look on his face. As soon as he got off the phone, he looked at me and said, "They just offered me a full-time job with benefits." All I could do was sit there and cry. The Lord had heard our prayers! We quickly called our parents to spread the good news, which resulted in even more crying.

Crunch time! Over the next two weeks I wrapped up my first year of x-ray school, we found a duplex to rent in North Little Rock (which Daniel immediately moved in to), and we completed last minute wedding details. Before I knew it the week of the wedding was upon us!

to be continued...

click HERE for Part 6

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Our Love Story: Part 4

After he drove away, I immediately went to find my mom. I had some conflicting emotions going on in my heart and I needed to sort them out loud with someone.

"How was your evening?"

"It was fine." (Anyone who REALLY knows me, knows "fine" is code for "not good.")

"Do you want to talk about it?"

I was quiet for a minute, pondering whether or not I really wanted to say it out loud because once I did, that meant it was real. "Mom, he told me he loved me."

Now it was my mom's turn to be silent for a minute. After what felt like eternity, she said, "Well, do you love him?"

Freak. out. moment. Did I really love him? Like, the real I-have-found-the-one-my-soul-loves kind of love? I've only known this guy for 6 weeks! Is that possible? What about all the walls I have up around my heart? Am I willing to let those down for this man?

"Mom, I don't know. Maybe? But, I've only known this guy for 6 weeks."

"Who says there is a timeline for falling in love? There's no set rule that you have to go on "x" amount of dates before you can fall in love with someone. Sometimes, it just happens fast."

Whoa. Come again? My mother is telling me that it's ok to already be in love? "I don't know mom. I'm gonna have to process this."

"Don't feel like anyone is rushing you. Just pray about it and seek the Lord and He will make it clear to you."

Christmas came and went and I already had a trip planned to go to Dallas to spend a few days with Kaitlyn (my bff from Kannakuk). We had a blast together! I told her about Daniel and our conversation and that he had told me he loved me. She was such an encouragement to me--she echoed everything my mom said and prayed with me about it. As I was riding in the plane back home, I knew without a doubt I was absolutely 100% in love with this man and wanted to spend the rest of my life with him. Before I told him though, I needed to ask my parents if they could see him as their son-in-law and if he would fit into our family. They both gave me resounding "yes" and told me they were excited to be gaining a son. Daniel and I already had plans to see each other for New Years and I decided that if I had the opportunity that day I was going to tell him. I always love New Years Day because of all the football games that are played, but New Years Day 2009 was going to be one that I would remember forever.

I got to his house bright and early wanting to spend every second I could with him. I'll never forget-- we were sitting on the couch watching the Cotton Bowl and for some reason, everyone else had left the room. It was just us for a few brief moments. I seized my opportunity. I looked at him and said, "I love you." He turned his head towards mine, "What did you say?"

"I said, I love you." Slowly, a huge grin broke out onto his face and it stayed there the rest of the day. From that point forward, our discussions would turn to "when we get married" and he would always tease and joke with me, "Are you sure you want to marry me?" To which I would always reply, "Yes! I'm absolutely sure I want to marry you!" 

February 2009 my mom's dad suddenly passed away. It was a rough time for my family. We had no idea he was so sick and while it's inconclusive, we think he died of Multiple Myeloma. He and my grandmother had been together since she was 17 years old, and now that he was gone, she wasn't really sure what to do. After his death, she moved in with us, which afforded her the opportunity to grieve and not be alone. She also got to spend a lot of time with Daniel and they quickly became close. In June, she bought a new house closer to my parents and asked me if I wanted to be her roommate. So, I moved in and a few weeks later I started x-ray school.

In the middle of July, we found out my cousin was getting married in Destin, Florida on August 1st. My family always loves going to the beach so of course we weren't going to pass up THAT opportunity! Since I had just started back to school (and my hours were Monday-Friday, 8-4) my parents graciously decided to fly Daniel and I down with their bonus miles that Friday afternoon. I remember being so excited, sitting on the plane thinking about what a great weekend it was going to be--my cousin was having a beach wedding and my birthday was only a few days away...

to be continued...

click HERE to read Part 5

Friday, September 6, 2013

Our Love Story: Part 3

Driving up to the school, I was nervous. I just knew this was going to be totally awkward and horrible. I walk into Starbucks and there he is.

"I dont' remember him being this cute," I thought to myself. "Oh, stop it!"

I set my backpack down and he asked me what coffee I wanted. Um, Peppermint Mocha of course. He brings our coffee back to the table and we just start with small talk. What's your major? Why did you pick that field of interest? Do you like sports? Where did you grow up? How many siblings do you have? Etc, Etc, Etc. Before I knew it, two hours had passed! This was so much more natural than I thought it was going to be.

"Hey, I have an intramural soccer game at 10 tonight. Want to come watch me play?"

"Um, sure. Ok."

Daniel likes to say this is the part of the evening where he realized just how stubborn I really am. We get to the soccer fields. It's like 38 degrees outside and raining. I'm standing on the sidelines shivering despite the sweatshirt I have on. Being the chivalrous gentleman he is, he walks over and offers me his hoodie as well. Of course, I politely decline, telling him he needs it more than me--I don't want him to think I'm a needy girl! After several more attempts at trying to get me to take the hoodie, I finally give in. I don't remember if his team won or not, but I do remember after it was over, he took me back to my car.

"I had a really great time with you tonight."

"Yeah, me too."

"Would it be ok if I called you sometime?"

"Sure! That would be great."

"Awesome. Well, have a good night then."

"Ok, goodnight."

Over the next two weeks, he took me on an actual date and we talked on the phone every single day--most of the time for 3 to 4 hours at a time. I distinctly remember one such phone conversation where he told me, "I want to ask your parent's permission to date you. But before I do that, I want to talk to you about our beliefs, priorities, and values because if they don't match up, then there is no point in us continuing this relationship."

Um, is this guy for real? So we spent the next 3 hours asking and answering tough questions about whether our beliefs lined up, whether our values lined up, and what our priorities and dreams for the future were. After that conversation, I felt the walls around my heart slowly start to crumble.

The very next day, I decided to tell him about my "Mate List." I was so nervous and felt ridiculous, but the more I learned about him, the more I realized he was slowly completing my list of character traits I wanted in a husband. As I brought it into our conversation and rushed to explain why I made it, he stopped me and said, "This is so crazy because I did the same thing this past summer in Thailand." (He  had spent 2 months in Thailand that past summer, teaching English to University students and preaching the gospel with a group from the BCM).

Needless to say, I was speechless for a moment. He continued, "I just felt the Lord tell me to write out a list one morning, so I did. It has 50 things on it." Whoa, over-achiever. FIFTY? But how cool that we did the same thing in the same summer!

Sunday, November 23, 2008. Daniel came out to my parent's house after church that night and asked them for their permission and blessing to date me. My parents were floored and totally respected the fact that he initiated it. That's our official "we're-dating-and-an-exclusive-couple" day.

Thanksgiving came and went and suddenly finals week was upon us. Daniel came to my house that Friday night to celebrate that the semester was over and we ended up watching Shrek. As I was saying good night to him, he looked at me and said, "Haley, I love you."

Time seemed to freeze and I stopped breathing. No guy had ever said that to me. As I looked into his eyes, I knew he wasn't saying those words just to say them, he truly meant them. Remember that promise I had made to myself that I wasn't going to say those words to a guy unless I knew he was the one I was going to marry? Well, in that moment I freaked. I think deep down I wanted to say them, but I just couldn't. So instead, I replied, "That means the world to me to hear you say those words. But, I can't say them back to you just yet." Talk about ruining the moment. I could see the hurt all over his face. I rushed to explain, "It's not that I don't love you back, it's just that you know I've never said those words to any guy before and I just want to make 100% sure before I say them to you." Well, I don't think that helped anything, but he graciously smiled and said everything was ok. I felt like a jerk. He left and I immediately went to talk to my mom about  everything that just happened.

to be continued....

click HERE for Part 4

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Our Love Story: Part 2

When I came home from working at Kanakuk, I had such a peace about the future. I cherished time with my family and knew God was in control. I started back for the fall semester and became involved leading a small group Bible Study at church for 9th and 10th grade girls. I absolutely loved it! Little did I know, God was about to rock my world.

Sunday, November 9th, 2008. Our college Sunday School teachers were gone for the weekend, so someone else stepped in to teach. I remember he got up in front of the class after worship and prayer time, said hello and introduced himself as Daniel Lowery. I had heard his name before and seen him around, but we had never talked. He taught out of 2 Kings that morning. I just remember sitting there, listening to him, and thinking, "This guy has courage! It's no small feat to stand in front of your peers and teach, let alone actually KNOW what you are talking about!" I decided after class was over to go up and encourage him--let him know I thought he did a great job. I walked up to him, introduced myself and told him just that. I did not think anything of it as I walked out of the room.

Well, he must have thought differently, because later that evening as I was checking facebook, I noticed a message he had sent me a few hours earlier.

I don't know if you need to study for any of your classes, but i'm going to the library about 7.00 or 7.30 tomorrow if you want to come join me. i have a huge accounting test this week and i need to study hard; you are more than welcome to keep me company.

I just sat there staring at this message like, " who does this guy think he is? All I did was encourage him this morning and he thought I was flirting with him?! "

Because of my oldest child tendencies and the walls I put up around my heart, I waited until the next day and I replied:

i would love to come to campus later tonight but i have a huge test tomorrow too and since i live at home, i just study in my room.

I know. Heartless, right? He didn't skip a beat though! He replied:

I understand you not being able to come tonight, i might have treated you to some Starbucks if you would have come. oh well... : ) Just know that the invitation is still there. lol

Now that was just cruel. Bribing me with free coffee? Was this guy desperate or what? As I'm laughing to myself, my mom decides to walk in. "What are you doing?" she asks.

"Oh, nothing. Just talking with this guy from church who's trying to bribe me to go to the library with him." 

"Well are you going to go with him?"

This is where I give the are-you-serious look and say, " Yeah right mom. I don't have time for a boyfriend right now."

"What harm will it do to at least go meet with him? At the very least you get free coffee and a friend. Just cause you talk with him doesn't mean you have to marry him."

*Sigh. "Ok, fine."

okay, now that you mention the starbucks i might come... actually, i think i am gonna come, i changed my mind earlier today. i'll be there probably around 7 or 7:15. i'll try to find you but my number is 501-733-9395 so call me if you don't find me by 7:30. see you in a bit!

Smooth, I know. Totally nonchalant and I played it cool.

to be continued...

click HERE! for Part 3

Friday, August 30, 2013

Our Love Story: Part 1

I've been contemplating about writing down our love story for a few months now. I'm not sure what has been holding me back, but I had a little pep talk with myself and decided to just do it--it needs to be recorded anyway so I don't forget all the details. Looking back, it's quite amazing the way God used events in our individual lives to eventually lead us to each other. So without further ado....

Let me lay the groundwork first. I come from a Christian home--raised in church and introduced to Jesus at a very young age. My parents are still head-over-heels in love and all my friends knew that when they came to my house, my mom and dad would be mushy and all over each other. Both sets of grandparents and the majority of my aunts, uncles, and cousins all lived in the same town, so I grew up adoring my family and loving every second I got to spend with them. Needless to say, growing up in that environment allowed me to dream of the day when I would meet my own Prince Charming and have the marriage and family my parents had. Jesus called me to be His child when I was 5 years old. Since then, I have continued to grow in my personal relationship with him and seek after His will in my life--from the smallest, most minute details to the huge, scary ones.

I am an oldest child, and as such, I have very oldest-child tendencies--I'm a strong leader, I'm bossy, I'm very organized and goal-oriented (a major planner), I put on an air of self-confidence and I never (under any circumstance) cry. When it comes to matters of the heart, deep down I want to be the fairy tale princess with my Prince Charming coming to pursue me and tell me I'm the most beautiful girl he's ever laid eyes on and that he can't live without me. However, I stuffed that into the furthest corner of my heart and was very guarded when it came to boys. I never wanted them to think me forward or flirtatious, and as a result, I didn't "date" very often.

When I was in 10th grade, I had my first serious dating relationship. I decided at that point in time that I would never say the words, "I love you", to any boy until I KNEW without a doubt that he was the one God had for me to marry. My parents also bought me a True Love Waits ring--a symbol to stay pure until marriage. I wore it on my ring finger of my left hand, and vowed that it was not coming off until my future husband exchanged it for an engagement ring.

Fast forward to my college years: I attended the University of Central Arkansas with a degree in Health Sciences--Radiography. Because of the degree program I chose, I took my first 60 hours on-campus and the last 60 hours would be completed in X-Ray school. Knowing that I only had one free summer, I made a spontaneous decision (which is so unlike me) to apply to work at Kanakuk Kamps for the summer of 2008. Kanakuk is a Christian organization that started in 1926 and over time has evolved into one of the greatest Christian summer camps in our nation. It is based on three main principles: God first, Others second, I'm third. There are several different camps for boys and girls of all ages as well as a Family Kamp. Kanakuk Family Kamp is a resort quality environment that enriches families through Bible study, activities, family nights, parent night, and much more.  After attending an orientation to become a counselor, I felt God leading me to apply to work at the Family Kamp. I got accepted and worked there for 8 weeks. I can't even describe how incredible that experience was. God taught me so much that summer--to trust Him above all else and that He had a plan for me. Two of the biggest things that happened to me during my time there was I met my best friend, Kaitlyn, and I also felt led by God to make a "Mate List."

During one of my quiet times, I felt the Lord speaking to me about his plan for my future husband. I felt the need to write down on paper what qualities would be non-negotiable and what qualities would be nice for him to have. All in all, I had about 25 character traits that I listed. I knew in my heart, God had a man out there for me who possessed at least all the non-negotiable ones, and I was hopeful he would have some of the other ones too. Little did I know, God was preparing the heart of my future husband that same summer, halfway across the world.

to be continued...

click HERE for Part 2!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Missions in Montrèal

I think most of you know--but for those that don't, Daniel and I just got back from a week-long mission trip to Montrèal, Quebec in Canada. Our church here in Fort Smith is partnering with NAMB (North American Mission Board) to team up with Providence church located in Montrèal to spread the gospel. When I hear the word "missions" my mind instantly takes me to a third world country--maybe people that live in huts in villages and never really have contact with the outside world or something. But let me tell you, the mission field is right here in North America too! In Montrèal, out of 1.3 million people living in the city, only 0.7% are considered Evangelical Christians... 0.7%!!!! How crazy is that? There are lots of religious buildings in the city--but they are vacant almost all the time! The people of Montrèal kind of had a fallout with the Catholic church in the past. So even though most would claim Catholicism, they don't actually practice it.
One of the many empty cathedrals

Our church has taken several trips up there within the past year, but this particular trip consisted of Daniel and I, our missions pastor, and our family ministries pastor and his wife. We had two purposes-- one was to spread the gospel in a particular community in Montrèal called Little Burgundy.

A view into Little Burgundy 
It's a community divided roughly into 50% immigrants (China, Middle Eastern, Algeria, France, Haiti, etc.), 20% "artsy/blue collar" such as musicians, restaurant workers, local trades, etc., 20% young professionals and about 10% college students--a very diverse group of people in one spot. I absolutely loved this community! It borders one of the canals, it has an amazing outdoor market where people sell everything from flowers to fresh fruits and veggies to cheese to fresh bread to maple syrup (yum!), and it has great personality from it's restaurants, antique shops, and other businesses. We spent a lot of time prayer-walking in this area as well as trying to meet people, forge relationships, and spread the gospel.

Our other purpose was to interact with and evaluate Providence church. There have been some circumstances within the past year that have left this church without proper leadership and right now they have a NAMB church planter intern that is trying to step in and help that situation. We needed to evaluate and pray to see what decisions need to be made about what our future partnership looks like. Can I just say, I absolutely fell in love with all the people that make up this church! They are mostly college students with a few young professionals mixed in, and they have such a heart for Jesus and for His people-- I wish I had more time just to get to know them better! We had such a great time interacting with them, attending their Bible studies during the week as well as their church service on Sunday (Daniel was invited to preach and did an AMAZING job), and we helped throw a baby shower for the NAMB family (they are expecting a baby boy next month).
Some of the girls from Providence--Laura, Jocelyn, Annabelle (3 years old), Jeannie (expecting baby boy in Sept.), Justine, and Cathy Weaver

One of my favorite things about Montrèal was the food! They are probably mostly known for crèpes and poutine. Crèpes are like a pancake, but much thinner and lighter. Traditionally, they are rolled up kind of like an enchilada and can be either sweet or savory. Oh my goodness they were so delicious! I'm pretty sure I had one for breakfast just about every morning. Yum-O!
My delicious birthday breakfast crèpe

Poutine is a concoction that includes french fries, cheese curds, gravy, and usually some type of meat. Now, I absolutely hate mixing my food--yes, i'm one of those weird people that separates their food ad eats it in sections. Needless to say, I was a little hesitant about trying this one. However, I sucked it up and tried one that had beef, mushrooms, and peppers in it and honestly, it wasn't that bad. Granted, I only ate it that one time, but at least I tried it!
Daniel's poutine had sausage, hot dog, and beef

We ate other delectable food too like roasted duck, gourmet cheeseburgers, authentic french dip sandwiches, eggs benedict, and LOTS of fresh french bread and croissants! My sister will be so proud--I even tried steamed mussels and LIKED them! Obviously, we did not go hungry! Good thing we walked about 8 miles a day!

We definitely saw the Lord move on this trip. One of the things we tried to accomplish was talking to people about the gospel--literally walking up to complete strangers, striking up conversations, and trying to find an opening to talk about the gospel. Can I just say, it was terrifying! I was definitely pushed out of my comfort zone. However, it was incredible to see the Lord use us in this way. One of the neatest stories happened on Monday. Our group had traveled to Little Burgundy that morning and we split up to try to cover more ground. Daniel and I felt that we needed to go into the Atwater Market and walk around the shops. We walk into one that sells all types of food products--homemade pastas, sauces, olive oils, maple syrup, etc. We were just walking around, browsing, and an employee--his name is Florent-- comes up to ask if we needed any help. We started some small talk, tried to practice some of our French--which this guy happened to be from France so his French was excellent, but his English wasn't as good, so it was pretty comical for him to try to teach us some French--and eventually he asked us what we were doing in Montrèal. That opened a segway for us to explain we were there partnering with Providence church and our goal was to reach Little Burgandy and get to know the people. Ok, this is the crazy part--he was suddenly called to a different part of the store and we didn't think anything of it. But right before we walked out, he caught us, handed us a piece of paper, and said, "Here is my name and my phone number. I would love to talk to you more before you have to leave. Will you please call me?" Talk about blown away! We went back the next day, saw him again, and scheduled to meet with him on Thursday at 4:00 pm when he got off work. We brought one of the girls from Providence, named Amèlie, because she is Quèbeçois and speaks fluent French---the gospel would be easier to share in his heart language. He met us outside, and immediately asked Daniel questions about what we believe as Baptists. Daniel was able to share the gospel through Amèlie and it was so neat to see someone so hungry for the gospel! We asked him if he had access to a Bible and he said he found one in the trash! We told him to start reading the gospel of John and Amèlie told him about a French-speaking Baptist church in the area he could get plugged in to. He asked for Daniel's email and told him he would email him (in English) with any questions he had. Such an AMAZING experience!!

If you think of Florent, please pray for him--the the Lord would draw him to with His Spirit and that Florent's heart would be open to the truth. Also, please continue to pray for our church, that the Lord would guide and direct our next steps.

As you can see, it was an awesome week--totally God ordained!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Celebrating the Mast-ah


My rockstar of a husband finished and graduated with his Masters degree(WITH all A's this semester I might add)! (Hallelujah chorus)

Whew! Words can't even begin to express how proud I am of him. He stuck with it, even working full time and adjusting to a new job and a new place. He is utterly and completely amazing. I can't stop gushing about him. ;)

To celebrate his achievement, we had all our immediate family up to Fort Smith for dinner and dessert. I think we had about 21 people total--including six kids (8 and under) and 2 puppies (my parents brought JoJo, their new lab puppy to play with Sophie). It was absolutely crazy but such a fun time! Daniel's middle brother, Sean, and his wife Kimberly live in Tyler, TX and they drove up and brought their two girls, Carley (3 1/2) and Audrey (18 mo.), to stay the weekend with us. It was so great to be able to spend time with them--and the girls absolutely fell in love with Sophie! On Saturday, Ben and Rebekah (Daniel's oldest brother and his wife) came and brought their 4 kids, Will (who turned 8 that day), Hayes (6), Olivia (5), and Caroline (3 1/2). My parents came and brought JoJo, and both my grandparents and my cousin Caroline came, who was a big help with the puppies. Finally, Daniel's parents and his grandmother Ruth drove up to finish out the crew.

We ate dinner at Taliano's Italian Restaurant in Downtown Fort Smith. Can I just say, WOW. This restaurant is in a house that was built in 1898, and they have totally remodeled and decorated it like it would have been in the 19th century. They also make all of their pastas homemade, as well as their sauces and dressings. If you are ever in the Fort Smith area, be sure and eat there! It was absolutely incredible. Once we were absolutely stuffed, we came back to our house, where Daniel opened gifts and then we ate even more by partaking in desserts--brownies a la mode and white chocolate chip torte. I think we were all miserable by the end of the night!

All in all, it was so great to have everyone together and celebrate Daniel and just spend quality time with family. Memories were definitely made!

Sophie spent some quality bonding time with Dad


One of our nieces, Audrey

Dessert table!

                        Me and my graduate                        

                                      My mom and my grandmothers are such inspirations to me!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

We got a PUPPY!

It finally happened. We got a puppy. We are now officially part of the "my dog is my child club." And I mean that in every literal sense. It's funny how many times we have looked at each other and gone "what do we do?"..."I don't know, what do you think we should do?"..."I don't have any idea, just wing it I guess." When she whines, is it because she is hungry, thirsty, needs to go outside, is tired, wants to play....the list goes on and on. Talk about a reality check. Yes, puppies are cute and cuddly and fun and great companions, but THEY ARE WORK. Can I get an amen??

However, late nights and accidents aside, we are in love with her. I told Daniel this was just good practice for when we had a baby. He just laughed. She is really smart and loves to play (and of course bite everything in sight), but she also loves cuddles and just being with you. She is an 11 week old redbone hound/lab mix, so it will be interesting to see which qualities she picks up from which parent. Fun times ahead!

Right after we picked Sophie up

They were both tuckered out on the ride home

Peaceful napping

Thursday, May 2, 2013

My Baby Sister is Gettin' Married!

Y'all, I am SO excited to announce that my baby sister is getting married! I am incredibly excited for her and my future bro-in-law, Kirby...they are so perfect for each other (and bless him for putting up with her lol). We had been secretly plotting behind her back for a couple of months--talk about biting your tongue to keep a secret--and everything went absolutely perfect and without a hitch!

Ok, story time!

Kirby called me back in January to discuss rings and what Hannah liked and what cut of diamond she wanted, etc, etc, etc. Right in the middle of all that, the Lord decided to up and move Daniel and I back to Arkansas and it was a really crazy time, so the plans kind of got put on hold for a couple of weeks. We picked right back up in February, going to a couple different jewelry stores and just seeing what we could find. One of the ones we went to was Brooks Jewelry in Conway and they specialize in custom-made rings. DING DING DING! We had a winner! Kirby really loved the idea of creating Hannah a one of a kind ring that no one else would have, so we went to work deciding what kind of setting he wanted, where to get loose diamonds, and all that jazz. It just so happens that his grandmother had a ring that she told him he use for Hannah's ring (how special is that?!). The ring was yellow gold with a .35 carat solitaire. Now, Hannah absolutely loves rose gold, so Kirby decided he wanted to incorporate that into her ring somehow. He also decided he wanted to do a three stone ring, because it would signify that their marriage relationship would consist of God at the top and then the two of them. Kirby was able to use the solitaire diamond from his grandmother and then the other two stones we found from some close family friends. Brooks Jewelry went to work drawing up a design and it was absolutely STUNNING! 

Now that the ring was taken care of, we had to decide when and where he would propose. The weekend of April 13-14, UCA had a Spring football game and Kirby's parents and sister were driving up from Austin, TX to watch him play. We decided this would be the perfect opportunity cause then all the families could be involved! He called my grandmother to see if she could do lunch on Sunday before his family had to leave--our grandmother's house is very special to us because we have so many fun and loving memories there and this would be absolutely nothing out of the ordinary to Hannah. Again, it was perfect! Knowing that she really wanted me at the proposal, I had to let her think I wasn't coming to lunch since Sunday was a work day for Daniel. Secretly, Daniel and I drove down after church so we could be there and watch the whole thing!

The Proposal:
Sunday, April 14, 2013, was a bright sunny day with a high of 75 degrees---absolutely perfect weather! (notice a trend here). They all get up and go to church, and then head to my grandmother's house for lunch as planned. Meanwhile, Daniel and I are driving down from Fort Smith and my Aunt Linda and Uncle Jim are driving back from our cabin to be there to take pictures. Once we arrive, we sit and hide at the end of the driveway so she won't see our cars. Kirby takes Hannah down to the lake that my grandparents live on, and at that moment we RUSHED into the house to watch the whole proposal transpire. It was so fun and beautiful to watch--especially to see the look of shock of Hannah's face since she had no idea it was coming that day! We got some great pictures and came back up to the house to celebrate and eat cake! 

I mean, honestly, how gorgeous is that ring?! 

The rest of the afternoon, we ate cake and took pictures and sighed with relief that we didn't have to keep a secret anymore! Since then, she and Kirby have already set a date---May 9, 2014 in an intimate beach ceremony in Florida! The countdown has begun so let the wedding festivities begin!

PattiCakes Bakery made this beautiful cake

Yay for being engaged!

The happy couple

Mike and Jan O'Meara, Kirby, Hannah, Mom and Dad

The couple with our grandparents :)

The Henderson women and our bling. I'd say our guys did well.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Dreams Do Come True

Now that things have settled down a bit, I finally have time to dish some details on our move back to Arkansas. First of all, let me say, GOD IS GOOD.

This process started about 4 months ago. Around Thanksgiving, we started having contact with FBC in Fort Smith. We actually met face-to-face with Daniel's boss that weekend since we were in town. It was an informal meeting and we knew they had other people they were interviewing and considering for the position, but I think we both walked away from that meeting feeling hopeful and trying not to get too excited. Thinking our timeline to move was after graduation in May, we didn't really anticipate a fast interview process. Suddenly, in mid-January, the Doctor I worked for in Louisville got deathly ill and had to be hospitalized. They honestly didn't think he was going to live through that week. He had a bowel perforation, underwent surgery, went into cardiac arrest as well as sustaining liver and kidney failure. (Thankfully he is on the mend now) Absolutely crazy and scary! Well, being an assistant to him, if he is not working in the office, then they don't have a need for me and therefore I wasn't working either. Daniel and I started freaking out a little bit because we knew that we would not be able to survive and pay bills if I lost my job. We prayed and consulted our families and decided to turn in our 30-day move out notice to our apartment complex. Biggest leap of faith ever! Either God was going to lead us to where He wanted us to serve in ministry within those 30 days, or we were going to move in with family until we figured it out.   

Once we made that decision, Daniel contacted the church and explained our situation to them. They had already told us they wanted us to come down for a weekend to interview and meet some of the staff. They were so kind in working with us and asked if we could come down and stay for the very next week (keep in mind this was like 9:30 on a Thursday night and we would have to leave the next day). Since I wasn't working anyway, I called my office manager to make sure that was ok and she said yes. So we packed up and headed to Arkansas bright and early the next morning! We got to Fort Smith and had a week of meeting staff and people at the church, lunches, dinners, interviews, etc. We even got a chance to drive around and look for a house to rent. It was wonderful! After meeting and interviewing with the Personnel Committee on Wednesday night they called us Thursday morning and informed us it was a unanimous decision and "unofficially" offered him the job of Associate Pastor of Connections. I say unofficially because once it passes with the personnel committee, it's about 99% sure to pass with the deacons and the rest of the church, but it would not be "for sure" official until that happened on February 10th. Knowing our situation with having to be out of our apartment by February 16th, they went ahead and told us so I could turn in my two weeks notice at my job and we put a deposit down on the house we found to rent.

We came back down the weekend of February 10th to interview with the deacons and be voted on by the church and it was a passing vote with 97% yes! We drove back to Louisville, had the pleasure of having a moving company come and pack up our stuff and move us (if you EVER get that opportunity do not pass it up!) and came back to Arkansas for good on February 17th!!

To say it has been a whirlwind would be an understatement. But let me tell you, God's timing is everything! We never could have dreamed up these circumstances but it has been such a blessing! Daniel is settling into his new role and absolutely loving it (I feel like this job was created just for him--it is so perfect!) and he is also finishing school full-time so he can graduate in May! Please be in prayer for us on a few things:

1. For Daniel to keep up with his schoolwork and finish strong. I cannot tell you how wonderful the church has been-- letting him do some of his work while at the office! I am SO proud of him and I know he will continue to do great!
2. For me to find the perfect job in the perfect timing. Another blessing is I am able to draw unemployment due to us moving states for Daniel's job and the fact that I basically lost my previous job because my doctor got sick. This is helping out and taking some of the intense pressure off of me, but I still need to find a job and work so we can save money for the future.
3.For us to settle in to our new ministry and that the Lord would be glorified.

Words cannot express how excited we are to be back in Arkansas! Being closer to our friends and families is so fun and we absolutely are already in love with the community of Fort Smith!