In which I tell our love story in a lot of words…
Our weekend, part 1.
We loaded up the kids and headed toward the state park where Andrew and I spent a good portion of our college days. When we first met, one of the first things we did together was hike with a group of friends. So we took the kids up the mountain. And then we took them on their first real hike. We actually followed the trail of the first hike Andrew and I ever went on together. (And, just to be clear, I never skipped class to go hiking, but I cannot say the same for my intrepid Wilderness Man hubby. And yet his GPA was still higher than mine.)
Now, I’m not saying it wasn’t completely nerve-wracking getting five little people down the slippery rocks and hills we traversed to reach our destination. But it was totally worth it.
The boys were super impressed with this adventure. Their eyes were bright, their energy was effusive, and their voices were loud and cheerful. This sort of outing was right up their alley.
Even Willa didn’t mind traveling on my back for this trip. (Although I’m not sure how many branches she got hit in the head with.)
Truthfully, I started out carrying her in front, but about halfway down the incline, I decided that she was throwing me off balance and since we already know I’m not the most graceful of mamas, we stopped progress to avoid disaster. Andrew helped me switch her around. I tied my sweater around the front clasp, tucked my iPhone into my, er, um, undergarment so it was easily accessible, and we were good to go.
The enthusiasm for our hike didn’t wane. The boys wanted to climb as much as we would let them. I tried to be brave and encourage them. But, I’m not gonna lie, my heart was thudding in my chest most of the time. It was slippery out there.
Adam, sweet middle child of mine, was in his element. He’s our most accident prone kid, but he loves to climb. He’s part mountain goat, really. He tromped through the woods exclaiming loudly that he was “hiking! I’m on a vaventure! I love ta hike, Mommy!”
Back at the first overlook, we snapped a few pictures. We stood in the same place Andrew and I had stood 12 years earlier. Only we’d multiplied a little.
And we never really got a shot of just the two of us because, well, that’s just not our life right now.
But it’s a good life, you know?
Next we hiked the beginnings of the blue trail, which is the trail where I fell in the creek in front of all of Andrew’s friends I was trying to impress. I’m basically the graceful equivalent of an elephant in a tutu.
Somewhere along the way, Willa gave up the ghost. We had to strap the hood around her so her head wouldn’t flop up and down when I walked.
We headed to the car, feeling content. Andrew and I held hands while the kids ran circles around us and talked excitedly about their love for this mountain. Yep, we love it, too. The crisp air fairly echoed with the memories of the flannel shirt and jean-clad Andrew and LL that were. Only now, it was also echoing with the voices of our five children.
While I reveled in my nostalgia and sentimental sappery, Adam walked up to me and said, “Mommy, where else did you used to go before you had us? And, can we go there now?”
I guess he decided we were cool after all. Or at least, we were cool back in the day…
That last blog post was just a ruse to make Andrew think I was done blogging for the night. This is what I really wanted to say…
Ten years ago, we made “us” official. And while I want to celebrate all this “us-ness,” I’ve realized that the true beauty of us is: it isn’t about us.
It isn’t what WE did. The last ten years were written for Andrew and me before the beginning of time. Our story is the one He gave us. It’s the story of what God did for us, in us, and through us. It’s not about us at all. It’s about Him: His mercy, His salvation, His grace, and His gift.
And I hope you don’t mind me taking up a bit of blog space to revel and be grateful.
Happy Anniversary, Andrew. Every year gets sweeter…
Special thanks to Uncle Stik for handling the technology portion of this video. Thanks to Abbi for all the pictures that were any good. And if you like the song, go here to get it. Buy the whole album. You won’t regret it.
I wasn’t always culinarily inclined. It was a long road to becoming the Queen of Beans. Growing up, my job was always to clean the kitchen, but I was rarely trusted with the cooking, since it involved measuring and such and I believe we’ve discussed my inability to do math.
When I met Andrew, he lived by himself in a small apartment, so he had to learn how to feed himself. He actually had a fairly well-equipped kitchen for a single college guy. By that, I mean he had two pots, not one. He cooked for me some and we liked to cook together.
When Andrew’s birthday rolled around, I wanted to do something special for him. Since nothing says “special” to me like a carb-laden breakfast, I offered to cook him a Birthday Breakfast. He told me his favorite morning treats and I made plans. Andrew’s favorite breakfast food was Monkey Bread. I decided I’d make that, according to his instructions since I’d never heard of it, and then I’d attempt my grandmother’s Cream of Wheat (the world’s most perfect food). And I threw in some strawberries to round out the meal, because you can never have too much sugar at breakfast.
I arrived at Andrew’s apartment early in the morning on his birthday. There had been a gigantic storm the night before and a tree was down in front of his apartment door. In typical Andrew fashion, the fuzzy-headed man who greeted me at the door hadn’t heard a thing. I schlepped my stuff out of the car (including my detailed instructions on Cream of Wheat emailed to me by my very tech savvy grandmother) and around the tree, straight into his kitchen. Then I shooed Andrew back to his room and got to cooking.
I started with the monkey bread. Per Andrew’s instructions, I chopped the canned biscuits into little pieces and rolled them in cinnamon and sugar. Then I carefully laid them out on a cookie sheet. Andrew had said I was supposed to pour butter over them. I wasn’t sure how the melted butter was going to stay on the cookie sheet, or even on the dough, but I shrugged my shoulders and plunged ahead. I shakily transferred a slippery, buttery cookie sheet into the oven and set about making the Cream of Wheat.
Somewhere in there, I discovered it was possible to scald milk.
The second batch of wheat turned out better. I hummed happily to myself as I sliced the strawberries, feeling mighty domestic. Until I smelled the smoke coming from the oven.
The butter had burned to a crisp and the bottoms of the dough were burned onto the cookie sheet. I scraped the “monkey bites” off the sheet and tried to scrape the black off. Instead, I scraped the non-stick portion of of the cookie sheet off.
I ran to Andrew’s room and tried to hide the panic in my voice as I shouted at the door, “Whatever you do, DON’T come out of your room right now.”
“Is everything okay?”
“It’s fine. Just don’t move.”
Then I raced out to my car, carrying the ruined cookie sheet with a hot pad on my hand, picking my way around the tree limbs. I stood in the parking lot, holding the baking sheet in hesitation. I made an executive decision. I quickly popped my car’s trunk open and dumped the offending baking sheet in it. Then I headed back inside, furtively glancing around to make sure no one saw me.
At that point, the second batch of Cream of Wheat was a bit thick. I added more milk, which spilled into the burner. I sighed in frustration and put a plate of strawberries on the table. “Come and get it!”
Andrew gamely ate the pasty Cream of Wheat and the strawberries. He finally took in the carnage in his tiny kitchen and then cut his eyes carefully over at me. “What happened in here?”
I rolled my eyes. “Don’t ask. And, um, I owe you a cookie sheet.”
It took some coaxing to get a confession out of me. And then there was much hooting with glee. I was missing a key piece of information regarding the monkey bread: It’s made in a bundt pan, not on a cookie sheet.
Ten years, five cookie sheets and a set of fine cookware later, I like to think I’ve advanced my culinary abilities. But there’s nothing like the memory of that monkey bread to keep me humble. Or to keep Andrew giggling.
I finished my story last week, but since a few of you needed more time, we’re back for another installment. I knew as soon as I asked for any suggestions on what to write this week that I would get THE question. Sure enough, twenty minutes after I hit “publish,” Renee weighed in with “Tell us your engagement story.”
Why is this THE question? Because, well, there isn’t an answer. There isn’t really A story. I mean, not the big, whiz-bang romantic fireworks story. But it’s our story, and I’m happy to share, no matter how anti-climactic.
Once we became “us,” we slipped into couple-hood very naturally. We had all the magic of discovering each other’s quirks and swapping stories for the first time, and very little of the tension that comes when two people spend lots of time together. Sure, I had to learn to communicate and Andrew had to squeeze “girlfriend” into his schedule, but, in general, we bypassed a lot of turmoil that many people had. I don’t know why, we just did.
Further, I think due in large part to the prayers of my father, who was wringing his hands back home, God protected us from a great deal of heartache. For someone like me, who is pathologically loyal, a control freak, and likes to know “the plan,” you would expect lots of angst and “define the relationship” moments. But no. It’s like God turned off the “analyze and plan” portion of my brain. Andrew and I just… were. Whenever I pictured my future, he was always in it. But I never bothered to define what that meant. That, my friends, could have only been a God Thing.
This gave Andrew the time he needed to grasp that he wasn’t going to be a bachelor until he was thirty and that maybe he’d like to keep me around for awhile. By the time he brought up marriage, I was happy to agree, but not really surprised. Just pleased.
Marriage was… the next natural step.
Once the M-word was out there, it became a given. We began to realize that we didn’t want to wait until we finished school (seeing how I still had so far to go). We shuffled numbers and schedules and living arrangements in our heads until we had a plan to get ourselves hitched before either of us graduated. We spent so much mental energy prepping for “the talks” with our parents, we never wasted much energy on angst and cold feet.
Once Andrew had survived the interview with my father (he can tell you that story some day), it was just a natural step to put a ring on my finger and start planning the wedding. Since I knew he had the ring stashed in his top drawer, I started pestering him shortly after the door closed behind my father. Because Andrew was just as impatient as I was, he spent a bit of time praying and reading some verses about marriage my dad had given him. Then he called me into his “bear cave,” dropped to one knee, and proposed. I paused not even a little and said yes. Then there was my bright shiny ring and we were done!
Our hands shook, as you would expect, and we were giddy with excitement. Then we called our folks and raced out the door to Bible study with goofy grins.
And that was all. The one thing we had going for us was the date of our engagement: February 2. Groundhog’s Day. Easy enough to remember. Not at all romantic sounding. But it’s our day and it suits us somehow.
Maybe over the years we’ve regretted a little bit not having a dazzling story to tell others, but since it was really my own impatience that created our non-existent story, I can’t really complain. He’s promised to make it up to me some day.
And that’s all I have to say about that. This has been so much fun to share with all of you. If you didn’t get a chance to finish your story this week, email me a link when you do post it and I’ll put up a link so folks can come read. Don’t leave us hangin’! Leave your links below!
From last week: I left for Christmas break, angry at everyone, especially stupid boys.
Over Christmas, I made sure to tell my folks about Andrew, but then I swore him off and determined to come back for second semester free and clear of any “imaginary entanglements.”
But that didn’t mean I couldn’t leave at 4:30 AM to go back to school so I could make it to church on Sunday. I gave myself a good talking to all the way there, even as I applied mascara in the car (on the interstate) and tried to mask the “not-enough-sleep” pale to my cheeks. I was gonna be brave. I was gonna have fun. And I was gonna study. Period.
Then I walked in the door. He turned his head to look at me and there went my heart again. Oh, and he was wearing his ballcap, a personal favorite of mine. UNFAIR! He had to go sing, but he stopped me and made sure I would talk to him after the service. Oh, yeah, no problem. Because that wouldn’t affect my resolve at all.
After church, Andrew asked what I had planned for the day. “Um, unpacking my car, moving back into the dorm. The usual.”
He asked if I’d like to go meet one of my new professors. He’d been telling me about this history professor I just HAD to take. He had a castle on the river and he hired students to work on it. He’d hired Andrew for that Sunday afternoon. We agreed that I’d go with him to the castle and then he’d help me unload my little Civic. We split a bowl of stew and headed out.
Dr. Gerberding was exactly the crotchety sort of history professor you would expect to build a castle in the sticks of Alabama. He was wiry, energetic, and a bachelor. He was an expert on Latin and medieval history. And he had no idea what to do with a GIRL in his territory.
He and Andrew were going to be painting a closet in the entryway. You know, the entryway that came after the huge arched doorway and the gargoyles. Just off the entryway was the Great Hall. And I’m not kidding with the capital letters. It was Great. Several stories Great. And it was Cold.
There was a small wood-burning stove off to one side. I sat on it. I made friends with Gerby’s bookshelves and spent some time trying to make sense of “Winnie Ille Puh.” Andrew made friends with his paint brush. He did very kindly come and warm up by the fire every half hour or so. We’d make small talk and he’d chase me around with his cold hands. Gerby offered us water to drink.
Seven hours later, they were finished painting. And I was starving. We stopped at a Cracker B@rrel on our way back to campus. And the floodgates opened. We talked and talked. About family, about school, church, and life in general. It was a nice, long meal.
And in the car, on the way home, he reached for my hand…
We were “us” from that moment on. Andrew kept his word and didn’t ask me out until second semester. I forgave and forgot in, like, thirty seconds, any indignities I had borne during the previous semester. And that was the beginning.
A year later, we got engaged.
Nine months later, we were married. I was barely twenty. He was twenty-one.
I wasn’t even close to graduating yet. But I already had the prize.
Alright, gang, you know the drill. Leave a link to your post in the Mr. Linky down below. Some of you have asked for an extra week to finish up your stories, and since I really want to see these end, I’m going to extend this one more week. I think you’ve heard about all you can stand about us, but if there’s something else you’d like to know, leave it in the comments and I’ll try and fill in the blanks for you next week. This has been fun for us to write out and talk about, and it’s been super-enlightening for our families, too! Thanks for humoring me and my wordy-ness!
Here’s last week’s post, in case you missed it.
All was not roses. While Andrew and I seemed to be a foregone conclusion to most of the world, in reality, we were no such thing.
Andrew was the perfect gentleman. Oh, sure, he flirted and I flirted back. (Sorry, Dad.) But it was friendly banter. There was never anything said or done to make me think I was special. But then again, there was. I couldn’t make him out.
And I was getting sick of tired of people asking me where Andrew was when I went out. How should I know? He doesn’t check in with me, people!
Here’s the part I was in the dark about: Before I arrived, Andrew spent a very intense summer of learning with an older friend of his. By the end of the summer, Andrew gave serious thought to the idea of “wife.” He made a list of all the characteristics he desired in a wife and kept it for reference. (Many months later, he gave me the list as a gift.) He knew the guys at the BSC were already lining up at the door to see the “fresh meat” when the new girls arrived for the fall semester. He wanted no part of it. And he promised himself that he would not date anyone in her first semester. Period.
Eight days later I walked in the door. Hee.
The problem with all this wonderfulness is that he couldn’t tell me what was going on or, well, we would effectively be going out. So he stayed quiet. And his friends who knew harassed him plenty, but they stayed quiet, too. Hateful.
They did, however, do their part to “vet” me and make sure I was Appropriate Andrew Material. His friends Alice and Angel offered to take me hiking on Montesano Mountain. It was fall and it was chilly. I fell in the creek five minutes into our hike.
It’s a wonder Alice didn’t tell Andrew that if he followed through with me, he was very likely to be killed, or at the very least, covered in food particles. (Okay, that last part is pretty much true, considering all the babies we had.)
I finished that blasted hike, soaked and chilled to the bone. Angel was hiking barefoot and I wasn’t about to be shown up with shoes on. Later, I found out they were impressed that I didn’t beg to give up and go home.
I didn’t feel very impressive. I felt mule-headed and cold.
By the end of the semester, I’d made friends, survived honors English, deleted a term paper (Andrew wishes he still had the hysterical message on his answering machine from that one), and become more settled, at college and with myself.
And that was all.
I left for Christmas break, angry at everyone, especially stupid boys.
Leave a link to your post down below! See ya back here next week for the thrilling conclusion! (If you think you may have trouble wrapping your own saga up by next week, drop me a note and I’ll see if we need to extend this little party. Ya’ll know me, I can always come up with more material…)
Feel free to catch up from last week…
Over the course of a month or so, Andrew and I both began attending a young church plant that was meeting at the BSC. He sang with the band and I showed up. It wasn’t a decision that we made together. It was “coincidental.” I had a fondness for start-up churches, having grown up in one, and Andrew got asked to help sing. And there we were. One more day of the week to see each other… and be seen together.
We did gradually get to know each other. It simply couldn’t be helped. It was obvious to folks at the BSC that I was Andrew’s quiet little friend. I got treated with kindness and respect because of it, although I don’t think I knew that at the time. I didn’t really care why people talked to me. I was just relieved not to have to make all the introductions.
Andrew and I were rarely alone. We got to know each other in crowds. He began helping me with my math, which meant he met my roommate. And she divulged secrets about me. Traitor.
I got to watch Andrew in a leadership setting at Bible study and was impressed with what I saw. He was thoughtful, well-spoken, and seemed to be well-read. (In God’s timing, most of his learning and growing had been done the year before I arrived. So by the time I got there, he was a complete package. Yay, God!)
We developed a friendship. Nothing more. But I have to confess that he did, on occasion, make my heart go pitter-patter. I wouldn’t have admitted it for the world. I even let my roommate ask him out (he said no!). But I knew it was bad when I was so distracted after talking to him in the parking lot that I made a wrong turn out of campus and had to back track a mile to make it look like “I meant to do that.”
Or the time I nearly ran over some unsuspecting professor outside the math building because I saw Andrew walking a few feet away and couldn’t keep my eyes on the road.
Perhaps I shouldn’t have been allowed to drive.
I met Andrew’s parents at our fall choir concert. The first thing I noticed was that his mom and I were wearing almost identical coats. She saw it, too. I joked, “We have excellent taste.”
This made her laugh and I knew I was gold. Andrew’s dad teased me a bit, but after nearly a semester hanging around his son, I was able to hold my own pretty well. Matter of fact, I was so proud that his parents wanted to meet me (they had heard about me!) and that I was able to exchange “witty repartee” that I pretty much screamed and did a seated happy dance the whole way home. (Again, someone should have taken away my keys. I was a lovesick road hazard.)
And now, after admitting that little tidbit to the world and my in-laws, I shall sink into the floor, never to be seen again. Ya’ll don’t forget to leave a link at the bottom if you’re playing along. Come back for more next week!
From last week: The next Tuesday, at the BSC, I learned about a dorm Bible study starting up. The guy who was teaching it, Tim, was leading music at the BSC and invited my roommate and me. The next evening, I dragged her along to Bible study.
Guess who was stretched out, long and lean, on the floor when we arrived?
We’ve both joked since then that, under the circumstances, we didn’t stand a chance of avoiding a relationship. Andrew was the co-leader of my Bible study. We had a class together three days a week. We attended the BSC together. When he found out I didn’t have a church yet, he offered to let me ride with him to his church the next Sunday.
I very firmly told myself, and my roommates, that he probably hauled a carload of poor dorm kids to church with him every week and I shouldn’t make a big deal out of it. Telling myself this worked obvious wonders because I only spent three hours trying on every outfit in my closet the Saturday night before.
I settled on a pink silk blouse, a long black skirt, and sensible heels. (Sensible, as in, they were chunky, like everything in 1997 was.)
And I was the only one in the car that Sunday.
I won’t toy with your intelligence by going into all the embarrassment that went on during Sunday school when Andrew had to explain who I was and our non-existent relationship to a roomful of peers. That went… well, I survived by folding my church bulletin into the tee-tiniest little square. Then I ripped it to shreds. Little Known Fact About Me: I fidget when I get nervous in a crowd.
Afterward, we met some of Andrew’s friends at Fazoli’s. I managed to eat my Baked Ziti without wearing it and carried on a conversation fairly well with Andrew’s friend, Alice. She was engaged to a nice, quiet guy named Michael. Andrew called her Mama Alice. I later learned that she held his hand through freshman year and took care of him. Andrew’s mother loved Alice. And Alice had lots of questions for me.
As we got ready to leave, I picked up my keys off my tray before tossing my trash. Then we all stood in the parking lot and chatted. While we chatted, I got nervous again and started frittering with my keys. I tossed them back and forth between my hands, played with each key, and fiddled with the ring. Then I heard Alice laughing. “You do realize you’ve got sauce all over your shirt, right?”
I looked down to see my hands “bleeding.” I had stuck my keys in a pile of sauce and then proceeded to key myself to death with red sauce. I am a classy gal.
There was nothing to do but smile weakly and go back inside for a napkin. I made it home to the safety of my dorm room and lay very still on my bed, thinking. The conversation in the car had been easy and comfortable. Andrew was beginning to pick up on my fidgety habits and loved to tease me about them. He always seemed to be nudging me to be braver.
And it didn’t make me feel small and weak. It made me feel… safe and interesting. My blouse was ruined. And I was changing, too.
Alright, people, I’ve only got three more weeks of material left! (Shocking, isn’t it?) That means if you missed out this week, you’ve only got three more weeks to get your saga posted. I’m having so much fun reading people’s stories. Keep it up! See you back here next week!
From last week: On the first day of choir, I found a chair safely amidst some girls and sat quietly. Like I said, I wasn’t very outgoing. So I was surprised to look up and see the tall guy from the Baptist Student Center heading in my direction. And he was smiling…
He was smiling at the girl sitting next to me. They knew each other. He took the chair between us and struck up a conversation with her. I went back to examining my fingernails.
Andrew here. Let me interject my side of things before this heads further down hill. Remember, I did not know Lora Lynn at this point. I sat down to talk to a friend from last spring. And for the record, I never ended up talking to the girl. Not one word. She was talking to a friend of hers when I walked over. And, no, I’m not shy. I never said I was.
The choir director took the podium and informed the choir that we were going to take a few moments to “get to know each other.” She insisted that everyone find someone in the room they didn’t know and find out three things about them.
Well, that would be easy for me. Seeing how I didn’t know anybody. My eyes began darting around the room, looking for someone of the female persuasion to talk to. Mr. Social Butterfly sitting next to me didn’t have it quite as easy. He turned to me, “I know most of these people. But I don’t know you. I’m Andrew.”
Aw, man. I was gonna have to talk to him. And can I just point out that he was wearing a brightly tie-dyed long-sleeved shirt in the middle of August? And his hands were so nicely browned by the sun that I found it all a bit distracting. I mumbled my name. Then we had to go into the explanation of how it’s TWO names, it’s a Southern thing, and he could just call me Lora. (A habit he’s never quite recovered from, by the way.)
I don’t remember the three pieces of information we exchanged. I think one of mine involved playing the piano. I was just fourteen different kinds of interesting, I’m sure. Especially since I don’t believe I made eye contact. Or spoke above two decibels. Then, horror of horrors, we had to introduce each other to the choir. Andrew handled it with aplomb and grace. I got yelled at to speak up… twice.
We did manage to discuss our attendance at the BSC, although he didn’t remember seeing me there. Knowing myself to be an expert wallflower, I wasn’t surprised.
Wait a minute. Andrew here again. Let me quickly point out that I still remember the things Lora Lynn told me about herself. She was from A—-, she played the piano, and she had 5 brothers and sisters. See, I was paying attention! Now, for the accusation about not remembering her, that was the biggest event that happened at the BSC all year. I’m sure I didn’t see many people there. Ok, enough defending myself. Back to it…
Still, in a room full of people I didn’t know, he was a connection. And he knew other people. I didn’t expect much from the acquaintance, but even to not be recognized by someone I’d seen before was a relief from being completely unfamiliar.
We didn’t speak after that, but we exchanged a few smiles through the next week. The next Tuesday, at the BSC, I learned about a dorm Bible study starting up. The guy who was teaching it, Tim, was leading music at the BSC and invited my roommate and me. The next evening, I dragged her along to Bible study.
Guess who was stretched out, long and lean, on the floor when we arrived?
Time to play along! Leave a link directly to your post, all about how you met your mate! Come back next week for more!