Friday, April 27, 2012

Thankful

I mentioned that things have been pretty busy here recently.  Well, there's no sign of things slowing down anytime soon.  But, amidst all of this chaos I have found myself just really being thankful.  Not for the things I have, but for the people.  My fiance, my parents, the in-laws I'm gaining (siblings and parents), my friends, and mostly...my God for bringing all of these people into my life.

So..Sunday Neal and I signed a lease on a house that we LOVED.  It was perfect. It was the right size, the right price, the right location.  But...some things came up and we just couldn't make it work.  A LOT of unexpected expenses came up so we called the landlords and nullified the lease just four days after we had signed it.  In the midst of all of this my parents were a saving grace.  They were willing to do anything, and I mean anything, we needed them to do for us to get out of this lease.  Luckily the landlords decided to allow us to get out of the lease fee-free.  Amazing, right?  That's a God thing right there.

I've also become more and more thankful for my in-laws.  My mother-in-law hooked me up with this awesome babysitting job just 10 minutes from my apartment.  The baby is stinkin' adorable and the parents are just the sweetest people on Earth.  I love kids and while I work in a high school I miss the days when I taught pre-school and got to hug on babies and toddlers all day.  It's nice to spend some time with a cuddly 8-month old once a week :)  I've also grown close to my sister-in-law.  We've always been good friends but that's only increased as I've dated her brother.  Now that she's pregnant and I'm getting married we get to share in each other's journeys and it is so so great.  She's awesome and she and her husband are such an awesome example for Neal and I!

Some things have happened around me recently that have really made my grow even more appreciative of my fiance.  He lets me vent after nonsense has happened all day at work.  He comes over and cooks dinner for me when I'm just completely burnt out.  (He even does the dishes!).  He encourages me in SO many ways.  He loves me.  He prays for me.  And recently, the thing that has really stood out to me, is that he shares scripture with me daily.  He gets to work MUCH earlier than I do so he emails me and I get it when I come into work. He'll email me a passage that he's read so that I can read it too.  And vice versa.  It's so lovely.  I'm just so thankful to be marrying a man who digs into God's word and doesn't just keep it to himself but shares it with me.  It's just such an incredible blessing!

Take a few moments today, or this weekend, and think about who you are thankful for. Then...go tell them! :)

Thanks for sharing in all the days of our life.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Busy Busy Busy!

Things have been super busy around here lately!  I thought I'd pop in and let you all know what is making us so busy recently.

Neal and I have been on the hunt for a place to live once we get married.  Neal's current apartment is way out of the way..in a lovely area....but way out of the way.  So we have been looking and looking and looking for a place that is central to both of our jobs and fairly close to both of our parents.  Lucky for us our parents live less than 10 minutes from each other so they are in a central location. As far as our jobs...Neal and I work about 30 minutes apart.  This posed a slight challenge.  Who gets the longer commute?  Do we live closer to Neals' job or mine?  How do we decide?  Well...we looked and looked and looked.  And we prayed and prayer and prayed.  Then, my wonderful father sent me a website for Military by Owner.  This website caters to military communities.  This was perfect for us. While we are not in the military we definitely live in a military community.  We happened to find this adorable little house on the site.  We decided to drive by it one evening and loved it even more in person.  We called the owners and we were able to look at the house THAT night!  We fell in love with it.  And luckily, the owners got a good vibe from us..and....lucky us...we signed the lease yesterday! YAY! :)  It's within our budget.  Has two bedrooms plus an office.  Has one and a half bathrooms.  Has a fenced in backyard and dog door for Cooper.  Has a laundry room.  And has PLENTY of storage.  We. Love. This. House.  We happen to love it so much we asked about a rent-to-own deal.  They're totally open to it and so that may be a possibility further down the road.  The only thing it's missing is a dishwasher.  I HATE doing dishes.  But, lucky for me, Neal knows that and has offered to do the dishes the majority of the time.  YAY!  Let me say it again. YAY!  We are so excited about this little house.  God is good.  That has been made VERY clear to us through this whole process.  God is good ALL the time!

ALSO, more exciting news!  My soon-to-be-sister-in-law, Lauren, is pregnant.  I've already told you all that.  I couldn't be more thrilled for her and her husband, Mike.  They deserve this and God is blessing them and everyone around them through this child already.  They are going to be such amazing parents.  Seriously.  Anyone who even slightly knows them knows how awesome they're going to be.  Again, God is good!  Why am I so excited about this RIGHT NOW though??  Lauren and Mike go this week to get an ultrasound.  I know...she's pregnant...of course she's getting an ultrasound.  Right?  Right.  BUT...this is an extra special ultrasound because they are finding out the sex of the baby this week!!! YAY! :)  I canNOT wait!!  We're all getting together next weekend, after Lauren and Mike find out and have a little time to enjoy the news, to hear the big announcement.  This child is going to be so spoiled.  And so loved.  Seriously. Just between Lauren and Mike's immediate families there are eleven aunts, uncles, and grandparents who will love this baby to pieces.  Goodness gracious.  I just could not be more excited for Lauren and Mike to find out more about this beautiful child of God.  I also can't wait to celebrate the news with them later this week! God is good.  All the time.

I'll share more about the house as we start painting, decorating, and moving over the next few months :)  And...of course I'll share the news about the baby when I find out!  Thank you for sharing in all the days of our life.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Wedding Plans!

Neal and I are deep in the midst of wedding planning.  There are roughly four months left before the big day.  Exactly 128 days left from today.  So...what's going on, you ask?  LOTS!  First of all, let me say that I swear this has been WAY easier than everyone told me it would be.  I attribute that to two things: 1.) A fiance who actually wants to be involved and cares about the decisions made, and 2.) The fact that Neal and I rarely discuss wedding plans if we're not ready to make a decision.  We're really good at making decisions.  We're decisive.  I love this about us. LOVE IT.

Now...where are we with the plans?  We've made decisions on all of the big things.  We'll be getting married at Severn Church.  Neal's Uncle Billy, the pastor at Severn and our youth pastor as we were growing up, will be officiating the ceremony.  He's also leading us through our pre-marital counseling. I'll share more about our pre-marital counseling in a later post because IT.IS.AWESOME.  You can check out Severn Church here.  They also have a Facebook page, you can find that here. It's a wonderful church and we're blessed to be members here!  It's the perfect church for us to get married in.  My Dad wrote a song about Severn, he describes it as "the little white church down in Severn."  That's exactly what it is.  A little white church in Severn.  Perfect for us!

Next, reception.  Our reception will be held at Ware River Yacht Club; it can be found here.  We looked and looked and looked for a reception venue.  It felt that way at least.  Then, we set WRYC aside as our last resort because it's close enough to the church and it's cheap.  Well, we chose it!  After we looked and looked, we went back and visited WRYC and Neal and I both just fell in love with it.  One wall of the building is strictly windows....looking out over the Ware River.  It's beautiful!

You can go to our wedding website and check out who is in our wedding party...if you're curious :)

Wondering what our wedding colors are?  Here they are!  Well, these are our "main" colors.  We're using TONS of different shades of these colors.





I have allowed my bridesmaids to choose their own dresses.  I gave them a guideline of color with a paint chip I picked up from Home Depot.  I also requested it not be floor length and not have a pattern, just a solid color.  They were all thrilled to choose their own dress and while it has been a challenge I'm SO excited to see what each of my bridesmaids choose! :)

Speaking of dresses...check out these ADORABLE dresses I chose for my two flower girls to wear.  The flower girls will be my two nieces, Emmie and Taylor.  They're already adorable as it is.  In these dresses, it will be unbearable cuteness! :)



This is getting REALLY lengthy so I'll share more later.  We're getting down to the nitty gritty details at this point...this is where all the fun begins in my opinion :)

Thanks for sharing in all the days of our life!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

How Did We Meet?

Now that you all know a little bit about who we are....I wanted to give you all some insight about how we met.  Just a disclaimer, I LOVE telling stories about how we met so this may get a little lengthy :)

This story begins in 1997.  Neal and I were both in the third grade.  We went to two separate elementary schools.  We lived in the same county but lived at two separate ends of the county.  So...how did we meet?  My parents were looking for a new church.  My older sister, Kati, and I were friends with two sisters who went to a church...Neal's church.  They invited us to church and Kati and I went with them several times. Finally, my parents saw how much we loved this church and thought that this might be "our" church.  So...at the end of my third grade year my parents started attending this church also.  We fell in love with the people at this church.  There was a group of kids, five to ten of us on any given Sunday, who were all the same age and we clung together very tightly.  Of course, Neal and I were both kids in this group :)  

Neal's family was VERY involved in this church.  His grandparents had attended this church for the majority of their married life.  His Mom had played the piano at the church since she was 17, led the youth choir, led the children's ministry, helped with the youth, and about a million other things that would take up this entire blog (she's THAT awesome!).  His Dad sang in the choir and taught Sunday School.  His Uncle was the youth pastor.  And the rest of his family all attended the church and was active in a variety of ways. 

My family started to become very involved also.  My sister was in the youth group at this point.  My Dad helped teach an adult Sunday School class and ran the van ministry.  And my Mom taught the two-year old Sunday School class.  This began to feel like home to us.

As Neal and I continued to grow up in the church we also grew closer.  Neal grew to have a little crush on me and would ask me out every so often.  I always said no. Poor guy.  Haha.  The youth group at our church began when a person entered seventh grade, so after knowing each other a few years we'd grown pretty close and we entered the youth group eagerly together.  Our youth group was VERY active; we had activities at least four out of seven days of the week and Neal and I both attended almost all of them.  This led to us spending A LOT of time together.

Neal continued to ask me to be his girlfriend.  I kept saying no.  Well, with the exception of one time.  We were in eighth grade.  I finally agreed to "go out" with him. I was his girlfriend.  Now, keep in mind, we didn't live near other, we didn't go to school together, the ONLY time we saw each other was at church.  I don't even recall talking to him on the phone.  So...this lasted for about two months and then I decided I wasn't really feeling it.  So, poor guy, I broke up with him.  

Side note!  When Neal and I dated in the eighth grade he gave me this card for Valentine's Day.  It was one of those homemade on the computer cards.  On the outside it said, "Some people prefer roses...."  On the inside it said, "I prefer tu-lips."  Hahaha.  So cute, right?  He didn't get a kiss. Despite his desperate attempt.  I was a cruel girlfriend, huh? :)

Anyways, so we entered high school.  This is where things really changed.  Neal, being a teenage boy, was VERY interested in girls.  I, on the other hand, could have cared less if I had a boyfriend, and quite honestly, I didn't want one.  It just seemed like too much drama and stress.  No, thanks!  In high school Neal was what I referred to as a "serial dater."  He went from one girlfriend to another.  But, really, he just dated the same girls over and over. 

This is where things get kind of complicated.  Though I turned Neal down over and over, it wasn't because I didn't "like" him.  I did.  I thought he was cute and he was funny and we always had SUCH a good time together.  But I just wasn't ready for a boyfriend.  I wanted to be ready and I wanted it to be right.  Also, my best friend moved here our ninth grade year and pretty much immediately fell in love with Neal.  Now, what kind of friend would I be if I just stepped in and dated him.  Not a good one, that's for sure.  So, I didn't.  Well, we were now in tenth grade.  My best friend, Rachel, now had a boyfriend. I thought maybe this was my chance.  Neal was single.  I was single.  One night we went on a double date with my best friend and her boyfriend.  Guess what happened that night?  My first kiss!  Yes, people, Neal was my first kiss and he will be my last kiss too :)  So stinkin sweet, right?  I love it.  Well..we hung out for a while and were "talking" but after all was said and done we just agreed that the timing wasn't right. 

As high school continued Neal and I grew closer and closer.  When he had a girlfriend I didn't see much of him but as soon as he was single again we were the best of friends.  Well, let me rephrase that.  We were never NOT best friends.  We just didn't talk everyday like we did when Neal was single. 

We were heading toward college now.  My parents had agreed to pay for all of my tuition and fees, anything beyond that (books, meal plan, dorm) was on me.  I didn't want to graduate from college with thousands upon thousands of dollars in student loan debt so I decided to live at home, work part time, and attend a local university, Christopher Newport University.  Neal decided to attend Old Dominion University, about 40 minutes from my parents' house.  The funny thing about this is that we both only applied to one college.  There was no possibility of either of us to go away to school.  We both stayed local. Usually, when people go off to college they lose touch with most of their friends from high school.  Neal and I were an exception to this. We talked probably four or five days out of the week.  We talked on the phone, we i.m.'d, we Facebook-ed each other.  We just really enjoyed each other's company. 

Well, during college Neal was actually single. What?!  For those of you who know him you know that this is a shocker.  Haha.  This was the best thing he could do for himself, to stop dating.  I was thrilled that he was single.  We began to hang out with each other, one-on-one.  This never used to happen, well, rarely.  We usually hung out with a group of people. 

So..how did we start dating, you ask?

It was the summer between our sophomore and junior years in college.  One of my good friends was leaving for a mission trip to Brazil.  I went with his family to take him to the airport....in Norfolk...where Neal goes to school and was living that summer.  Well, lo and behold. We got lost.  So, who do I call?  NEAL!  He just happened to be within like 2 blocks of where we were. He told us to meet him at this Church's Chicken and we could follow him home.  So, I jumped out of the van I was in and jumped into Neal's truck with him.  We were stuck in traffic for almost 2 hours.  We talked the WHOLE time.  He was on his way back to Gloucester.  For what?  To go on a date.  Ha.  So, he dropped me off at my house and told me he'd call me after his date.  I SERIOUSLY doubted he would actually do this.  Another one of my friends had come over to hang out with me.  Then, much to my surprise, Neal called me at like 11 o'clock at night and told me his date went terribly and wanted to know if he could come over and talk.  I said yes.

Neal came over, my friend left, and we just sat up for HOURS talking and watching movies.  After a while, Neal leaned in and kissed me.  WHAT?!  I hadn't kissed him since the tenth grade.  I knew something bigger was happening here.  It freaked me out. Scared me.  But excited me to no end.  A few weeks of this went by.  We continued to hang out and talk and he took me on a few more dates.  One night I drove all the way to Virginia Beach, after work, just to meet him for dinner.  I was crazy.  Haha.  Now, usually it's the girl who asks this question, but I will never forget, one night after hanging out Neal drove me home.  We were in the driveway and he said, "So, Annie, what are we?  Are we dating?  Are you my girlfriend?"  I said, "Um, yeah, I think so."  And so Neal+Annie began!!  Hahaha.

Thanks for reading all of this...assuming you actually made it to this point :)  Next, I will share with you all how we dated and ended up engaged.  I also LOVE this story so it'll probably be another long one.  You have been warned :)

Thanks for sharing in all the days of our life!