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