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(Post 2) – One of the Best Years of my Life – Part II

Finally–it’s time for another “One of the Best Years of my Life” posts!!! Post 2 (and you’ll have to bear with me as I lead up to Post 5…I’ll get there eventually with some news in that post–but to understand it fully…Post 2, 3 and 4 must precede it!) I knew tonight was the perfect time to share Post 2…so here goes–the year he asked me to be his bride and I made the choice to follow Him and leave my dreams at the cross…no matter how good or full of God’s heart they might be.

If you missed how we met–that’s a must read before this one…the “match made in heaven post” prefaces this one. While the year I met my husband was a good one–the year that followed truly became one of the best years of my life…as the year we met was a quite confusing one for my heart. I was a first year teacher–and felt the tug to return to China…and then as my heart was sure–my knight in shining armor appeared…and I was torn and pulled and felt as if I must choose one or the other as he expressed and felt a different call. My journals during that year are full of wonder and emotion desperately wanting the Lord to give me an answer–to take my longing for China away or to take this new dream of marriage quickly away and send me quickly to a country my heart now felt it belonged.

After a 9 month courtship and many conversations about the future, Richard told me his Uncle Buck and Aunt Lesa were going out of town and needed his help in caring for their youngest son and Richard’s elderly grandparents (who are now with the Lord)…and he so kindly asked if I’d skip a trip with friends and come along to his grandparents instead. I had met them on many occasions–and his family was a breath of fresh air and in their presence I felt encouraged in my walk with the Lord…I agreed to go. I was thankful his grandparents lived in a guesthome set up on the same property as Uncle Buck and Aunt Lesa–as I could stay in their home while Richard stayed nearby in his grandparents new guesthome (as they had recently sold what we fondly call “The Big House” across the pasture) so they could be close for Aunt Lesa’s daily care.

I begged on the way up for him to stop at every antique shop we passed–but he insisted we get to the pasture he spent years playing in before the sunset–so my requests were declined and he insisted the antique shops in Columbia were far better those in Bell Buckle, Tennessee. We beat the sunset–and I barely had time to put my things in Lucy’s room–when we raced up the hill for him to show me “The Big House”, horses and pasture. I heard stories of boyhood–and then I looked to see him on one knee—and forgetting the internal struggles in my journals…I squealed–and said “YES!”

Sooo…this question now must be asked—Am I only the only girl in the world that was wearing overalls on when her husband proposed???

We danced…we laughed and he asked me to pray. And then we joined his grandparents for a meal in the guesthouse. I was too embarrassed to make the announcement to his beloved grandparents myself so I kept my left hand in my lap holding my napkin while smiling across the table at my beau. As you know Richard and his humor–began asking his Mama Ann to pass him different dishes…like“Mama Ann, could you pass the green rings–I mean green beans.” “Could you pass the rings, I mean ROLLS.”

And in the most Southern sweet, high pitched accent you have ever heard, she asked,“I do declare–I believe I keep hearin’ tha word RINGS? Is there somethin’ you wanna tell me???“, she asked.

Now–some of you may be thinking, “Seriously–you shared this moment in your lives with grandparents??” And I have to tell you that I couldn’t think of a better or sweeter way. For if you knew this couple–and the place they had in this world in so many hearts–you’d, too, be honored and thankful!!!

I showed them my hand, and Mama Ann jumped out of her seat. I’ll NEVER forget…Big Daddy asked for a round of pecan pie…and he pronounced it “PEE-CAN PIE”. And Mama Ann asked if anyone knew. Boy was she excited when we said no. She asked for the honors, and we laughed and were overjoyed to give this to her. She ran out of the room taking her roladex with her and we didn’t see her again at the table until she finished having her field day! Oh to have the memory of her sitting on her bedside squealing and sharing the news with anyone she could think of! What a blessing to have that moment!

This was our time of celebration. And it was sweet. But it was also very short…

10 short and sad days later, we lost Richard’s father to leukemia. We knew he was sick–but what I didn’t know is he wanted Richard to go ahead and ask me and encouraged him to go to the farm in Tennessee. He got to see one of his children become engaged and rejoice with us–but the weeks and months to follow were far from what we imagined our year before a wedding to be.

My happy beau was now distant…I never felt like I should or could plan–and surely never felt it was a time to look at bridal magazines. Instead, I was being prepared for marriage more than any magazine or book or even another wise counsel could give me. Instead of a spring wedding as we had dreamed for–we pushed it to summer. More time to heal–and more time for the family. And just like my year in China–this quickly became one of the hardest–yet one of the BEST years of my life.

I can’t describe what we went through in that year–times feeling we were no longer the same people…or we were different people than we thought we were. There was pressure on my shoulders to be more than I thought I could be to more people than I thought I could handle…and there were even times we sat wondering if the timing was just all wrong. We had to think back to before when heartache didn’t rule our days to how we felt–and through heartache and pain we fell in love with one another again and recommitted to our engagement to one another. I never looked at a bridal magazine even then–and I only visited one shop and picked out my dress and the bridesmaid dresses all in one quick visit. I was in the midst without realizing it of preparing myself for marriage instead of a wedding…and to me–none of that really mattered that much any more.

We went through months of premarital counseling–which resurfaced my feelings and heart for China. And at one point I had to meet alone with the counselor to ask questions about God’s will and express my heart. Can you leave Richard and just go to China? Or can you leave China and just follow Richard? Which one is the Lord calling you to? I made my decision–and the counselor knowing my struggle told me as a visual in my heart–when they opened the doors of the church, to imagine leaving China at the cross and walk toward Richard–trusting that if it was God’s will one day He would reopen this desire but this time in us both. I remember doing just that and taking a deep breath as I walked forward and said goodbye to what I once was sure was my calling in life. Now, my calling would be to follow my husband–where ever that might lead.

Along with saying goodbye to one dream–the heaviness of the grief we had just walked through seemed to hover over us as our wedding day approached. While joy was always there, I tried to always be sensitive to wedding talk and making sure it never covered up the reality of the changes in the lives around us. YET, in a strange way–hardship really led to the most beautiful day ever…

I always think to myself, “If you want a truly special day–then walk through tragedy together and come out holding hands–convinced that having each other is enough.” I can’t tell you the closeness everyone in that church felt with one another as we had just walked through hard times with so many sitting there. While the void of the bestman was there–so was the laughter as Richard’s two bestfriends, Jeb and Jed, walked in the room and each bridesmaid and groomsman filled Richard’s hand with pennies as they passed him and shook his hand. A pocket full of rattling pennies…it’s the little things that break the ice and help you enter into the joy of the moment.

This was the song that was sung at our wedding…still so special to me! And SO TRUE of our lives!!!

And we made a commitment…for richer or poorer…sick or health…even until death. I was his–and he was mine and we were one by a miracle of the Lord…one of the first of many miracles together…

After the ceremony–we danced…and we exited on a golf cart–quite appropriate for my golf loving husband
…UNTIL my dress got caught under the tire and he had to hold on to me to keep my from falling out while it tore my dress! Hilarious, right?!

Then, off to Banff, Canada we went–and he put me in castle…’cause he said I was both God’s daughter (a princess!) and his! And the funny stories of our honeymoon (almost getting eaten by a bear and picking up hitchhikers–both Richard’s doings…that’s for another post!) The Banff Springs Hotel made up for some of the craziness though…

And that my friends–is Post 2. Absolutely–hands down…one of THE best years of my life. And for these hard but amazing years–I am so thankful. And we are still dancing. Only now with 4 crazy little children dancing with us. God is SO GOOD! And I’m so thankful:)

allie - April 1, 2011 - 11:15 pm

yay! i love reading these stories and am excited for the next 3 installations. Joel and I had the same Bebo song sung at our wedding. LOVE it.

PS sorry for being a random commenter–though we did meet super briefly at the Wiphan Waddle (we were the family w/ 2 girls against the wall after the race–the same ones that know Shelly & Joy and are pursuing adoption in Uganda with Lifeline)

Debb - April 2, 2011 - 12:19 am

Awwww……such a sweet real-life story! So glad that God blessed you beyond your wildest imagination with your husband! Amazing what blessings follow when we let God lead us, huh?!?!? 😉 To many many more happy years!

April - April 2, 2011 - 3:08 am

Hey…u went to Banff!! That’s just one province from me:) I am glad u enjoyed it!

Christy - April 2, 2011 - 6:38 am

Wow, such a great story!!! I had the same song played at my wedding, and I too had to fight longings to go back to Germany or the Philippines after doing short term trips there and them both asking me to come teach there… but having to come home to pay off college loans first and then shortly after, getting engaged. I honestly have forgotten how much I wanted to go back and this is making me think about it again and wonder if God will somehow use all that someday to help me pursue some kind of international ministry like He has for you! 🙂

Joy Kinard - April 2, 2011 - 8:54 am

Wow! What a beautiful love story.

rachel - April 2, 2011 - 10:10 am

pretty sure you should just write a book….love these stories!!!! hugs.

missy - April 2, 2011 - 10:58 am

such a beautiful story of REAL love.

Kim - April 3, 2011 - 9:59 am

Lovin this series. And the reminders that our “best” seasons are the ones we grow in our dependence upon Him.
Love & Blessings from Hong Kong,

Erica - April 3, 2011 - 10:11 am

I loved this post, Andrea. Can’t wait for the next ones 🙂 I have to tell you, I was wearing overalls when my husband proposed to me too!! I always laugh when I look back at the pictures!

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