"You can make anything by writing."

-- C. S. Lewis

Saturday, March 28, 2015

The Answer to My Girlish Prayers

I wasn’t ever the kind of girl that guys were typically interested in. I knew I wasn’t the prettiest in our high school class, and I certainly wasn’t the most fashionable.

And yet, marriage was something I wanted more than anything, and I was fascinated by the fact that (hopefully) there was a guy out there somewhere that I would spend the rest of my life with. 

So, prompted by my parents, I began praying for my husband nearly every day, starting when I was 11 or 12. I prayed that no matter what he was going through, he would stay close to God and develop a strong relationship with Him. I prayed that he would remain pure. And somewhere along the way, when I realized that I was being consistently overlooked by the guys in our class, I decided that, to save myself from heartbreak, I might as well pray that my first date would turn out to be my eventual husband. Weird, but true.



I don’t remember the first time I met Ryan. He was the new kid in 10th grade, and according to his memory, I was one of three giggling blondes he met in the school office the week before school started. He had trouble telling us apart for quite awhile.

Five months later, in January, he ever so shyly asked me to be his date to Homecoming. Admittedly, I didn’t know him well, and I felt a little sorry for him. But he was very sweet, and I said yes.

Our date was disastrous and painfully awkward; we had very little to talk about. And afterwards, I remember joking to God, “Well, so much for my first date being my husband! Never mind about that!”

But God has a sense of humor, and over the next two years, Ryan and I found that we actually had a lot to talk about. In fact, we couldn’t stop talking. He had other girlfriends, and I had crushes on other guys, but we always had time for each other. We were quickly becoming the best of friends.

During our senior year, we headed up the school newspaper together, and we connivingly talked our principal into designating a room for a “senior lounge.” We worked well together, and we had no idea that what was budding between us was something extraordinarily special…of the marriage sort.

We went to the same college, and though I was head over heels for him, he didn’t know it. So when another guy started exhibiting stalker-like tendencies toward me, I asked Ryan if he would pretend to be my boyfriend, secretly wishing for the real thing. A week or so later, he confessed his true feelings for me, and amidst a flurry of butterflies in my stomach, we became a permanent item.


Years later, after we were married, it dawned on me that God had completely answered my girlish prayers.

While I was praying for him in Colorado, he was a 13-year-old in Montreal, suffering the loss of his mom to cancer. He helped hold his family together through a move to Denver, and he endured years of verbal and emotional abuse from a crazy stepmother, the depths of which I am still learning about. But through it all, he continued to grow in his faith and commitment to God.

I prayed for my husband faithfully, not knowing he was the kid sitting next to me in Geometry class.

I prayed for my husband constantly, not knowing that he was the guy walking with me to get coffee at the corner gas station during our free period.

He was the one I was praying for, and God was holding him and caring for him and answering my prayers while I was unknowingly being given a front row seat.

I believe God thoroughly enjoyed orchestrating our story, even down to the moment Ryan took me on my first date, honoring my childish prayers for no reason other than to show me He’s God.


So in honor of his 37th birthday today, I want to celebrate all the things I love about my incredible husband.

1. He leads a rich inner life. Ryan has often said that he can keep his mind busy even in the most boring of situations. His wheels are always turning, and his brain is constantly working.

2. He loves to learn. Humanities lectures were paradise for Ryan, who sat through them chewing the end of his pen and soaking up facts like a sponge. Today, he is always reading news stories on his iPhone. If a group of us are discussing a subject and have a question about something, Ryan quietly pulls out his phone and does some quick research until he has an answer. He enjoys museums and libraries like nobody’s business!

3. He thinks outside the box. Ryan’s dad routinely told him stories about Pooh the Winnie, Mansuper, Manbat, and the Easter Pig, attempting to help him think about situations from different angles. It worked. Ryan is a master at riddles and is naturally “contrary” in any situation, just because. I often joke that Ryan cannot and will not be caged. He doesn’t like the limitations that personality tests imply; he likes to remain undefined and extraordinary.

4. He is intensely competitive. Whether it’s a board game or fantasy football, Ryan wants to win. Like, really bad. He wants to beat all opponents with his superiority. :-)

5. He is wise. I think because he can be so quiet in public situations, Ryan’s wisdom is oftentimes overlooked. He has a wealth of biblical, godly knowledge and the ability to apply it to any situation. He gives wonderful advice and serves as my moral compass. Things are very black and white with him.

6. He seeks truth. No matter what the cost, Ryan is on a quest for truth. Even if it means looking at the Bible from a different angle, he believes that truth will prevail and that we shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions. He’s not fearful that the answers might be different than what we want or expect. He believes that the Bible and science don’t have to be at odds with one another. He often reads intellectual science articles and then wants to discuss them with me. Ha!

7. He is a wordsmith. Ryan loves words, which is honestly one of the most attractive things about him. He is witty, a bit of a vocabulary nerd, and an incredibly gifted writer. One of his biggest pet peeves is adverbs being used incorrect. ;-)

8. He loves to laugh. One of our favorite things to do together is watch comedy specials. He enjoys good comedic writing and delivery. Throughout the day, I regularly receive texts from him with funny posts he’s read on Twitter, and it makes me happy because I know if he’s laughing at Twitter, all is well in his world.

9. He is compassionate. Ryan is very upfront about the fact that he will not watch TV shows that feature people in uncomfortable situations. For instance, ice skating makes him extremely nervous; Ryley’s penchant for performance gets him all worked up. He doesn’t like to see people fail. If it’s on TV, he will get up and leave the room. He just isn’t going to put himself through the awkwardness.

10. He has very basic needs. Ryan doesn’t ask for much. He likes meat and potatoes, Coke, milk, and chocolate chip cookies. He’s expanded his tastebuds somewhat since we’ve been married, so he’s not  fussy. He just doesn’t need much to function.

11. He is a rock. He is steady and unchanging. His faith in God is unshakeable, and he is undeniably stubborn. He’s my solid rock, a brick wall to lean on, unfailingly honest, and filled with integrity. He’s consistently himself, and what you see is what you get.

12. He is the love of my life and the answer to my prayers. I mean it. He is constantly challenging me to a better person, and we are each other’s biggest fan in every area of our lives. I cannot imagine living my life with anybody else, and I am so proud of the person he is. He is an incredible husband and father, and Ryley and I are immensely blessed.

Happy birthday, baby! I love you with my whole heart.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Apron Strings

How beautiful is it to be the root and soul of our little girl’s life? That her entire world revolves around us? That she can hardly spend the night somewhere else because she will miss seeing our faces in the morning, or, if needed, in the middle of the night? To know that we are so important to this child that her very existence is wrapped up in ours…the inhale to our exhale.

I’m doing dishes, and the water squeaks through our old pipes, and she jumps out of bed and pops to the top of the stairs.


“Yes, Ryley.”

“What was that noise?”

“I’m just washing dishes.”

“Oh, okay. Good night.”

“Good night. I love you.”

“See you in the morning.”


“See you in the morning?”

“See you in the morning.”

And this is how it always is…her watchful eyes and ears searching for any sign that her happy world might someday be disrupted…that something might go wrong.

We’ve prayed with her about her fears. I’ve explained time and again that she’s wasting perfectly happy moments in her worry that there won’t always be perfectly happy moments.

I remember having similar feelings myself…And I remember my tiny little brother always interrupting our play to yell, “Mommy? I love you!” -- just making sure she was still there.

All the same, I feel the pressure to stay alive….to ensure that my clock keeps ticking…to make sure I am always still here.

She links her arm through mine at the grocery store, cuddling up against me so that we are one unit…RyleyMomGroceryCart. She grabs my hand when we’re walking, out of a habit built when she was little and we were crossing the street. Now, it’s just because she loves her mom.

I can see her love in her tired but earnest green eyes, trying desperately to stay open under those heavy long lashes. She’s attempting to tell me the plot of the book she’s been reading, but her voice is cracking with exhaustion. I bend over and kiss her warm, freckled cheek.

It is wonderful and indescribable to be loved and trusted so thoroughly and so intensely. But above all, I want her to love and trust God even more. We can’t always be here, and unfortunately, we won’t always be here. And so, we tell her of God’s goodness and His grace in our lives. In a thousand ways, we introduce her to our Heavenly Father, day after day, moment after moment, and we trust that as the years pass, her childlike commitment to following Jesus will keep growing amidst unspeakable challenges and struggles the world will throw at her. We ever so gently pry her slender fingers from the ratty strings of our threadbare apron, then help her take hold of God’s.

I want her to go to camp, to outdoor lab, to my parents’ house, on a missions trip, to college. I don’t want her to go away. I just want her to be able to go away because it’s good for her…because life holds so much more for her than what Ryan and I can give.

In her sixth grade class, there has been talk of suicide, of cutting, of depression. My sweet little baby, suddenly 5’3” and lanky, had to bravely approach a teacher and report what she had heard so that her conscience would be clear, so that her friends could get the help they needed. How do you handle that? There is deep darkness in the world, and nobody is exempt from it. We keep telling her that she is a light…that light overcomes the darkness.

“That’s why we hide God’s Word in our hearts,” I say, tucking the quilt my aunt made under her chin.

She blinks, and questions fill her wide eyes, as they do hundreds of times each day.

“Hide it? Why do we hide it?”

“Hmmm. I guess it’s more like we’re memorizing scriptures and putting them into our hearts so they’re always there, even when we don’t have our Bibles handy.”

“And so nobody can steal it?”



Every day it’s something new. Tonight it was her math homework. Yesterday it was the fact that Ryan got on her case about wiping down the kitchen properly. Tears and anger and whining, followed by singing in the shower and skipping around the house with joy. The drastic mood swings! The hormones! We never know what will set her off or cheer her up. And she doesn’t know either, which makes it all the more exciting!

She’s eating us out of house and home. The breakfasts and snacks and brunches and lunches and snacks and early dinners and bedtime snacks….She marches off to school every day armed with enough food to feed an army, and every bit of it gets eaten. And in return, she’s growing. Her uniform pants are too short for her; we can wear each others’ shoes. She has growing pains nearly every night, and she’s clumsy and bony and downright gorgeous.

Sometimes she’s afraid of roller coasters, and other times she takes my debit card and runs into the store to get a few groceries on her own. She is on the brink of young womanhood, yet still absolutely a child. She’s caught somewhere in the middle, straddling the fence, a foot in each pasture.

And that’s what parenthood looks like for us right now--this messy knot of apron strings tangled with strands of long blondish hair. We’re trying to keep her stomach full and her stubbornness at bay, her fears alleviated and her soul at peace.

And trying to hold onto our sanity in the meantime. :-)


Sunday, March 1, 2015

LegoLand (Vacay, Part 4 [The Sequel])

A couple of years ago, Ryley’s Girl Scout leader was taking her kids to Orlando just to go to LegoLand. I hadn’t heard of it before, but it was intriguing since our little family unit is pretty much obsessed with Legos.

Legos are what our engineer-minded daughter wants for every birthday and Christmas. She has a little Lego village mapped out in a spare room in our home, and Ryan and I are not beyond plopping down on the floor to build with her every now and then. You know that tinkling high-pitched sound of the plastic blocks knocking together as you dig through a bucket trying to locate that perfect piece? Pure bliss. ;-)

So when we decided to go to DisneyWorld, we carved out a day in our itinerary to hit LegoLand, too. We had read mixed reviews, so we weren’t sure what we’d find!

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We teased Ryley that all the rides were actually made of Legos that were glued together. That caused a furrowed brow of concern. But for all we knew, that could have been the truth!

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There were cute and impressive Lego models all over the grounds. And we loved the double-decker carousel with Lego horses!!!

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The park is quite big, and we weren’t really following a map at first, so we were amazed when we rounded the bend and found ourselves in this courtyard filled with Lego models of famous places.

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They had the Daytona 500. The bleachers of individually constructed people were amazing!

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The Kennedy Space Center…

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Miami Beach…

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These poor people who, sadly, didn’t quite make it to the water stand in the desert…

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The White House, with the First Family standing on the porch…

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Washington, D.C…

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New York City…

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San Francisco…

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It was all very overwhelming and inspiring. They were incredible models, and we spent a long time there before I finally realized I was getting sunburned and had to go in search of a gift shop for some sunscreen. My freckles were popping out like crazy!

We came across this octopus, and it was one of our favorites!

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Then it was on to the rides!

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The rides themselves were not anything special compared to our experience at Disney. The park is basically a refurbished amusement park and gardens with a Lego theme. But the grounds were beautiful, and the entire place had a somewhat slower speed than DisneyWorld, which was nice.

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Doing some quick map reference and navigating… The grounds were so big!

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After we’d pretty much seen and done everything, we wandered into some gift shops. Oh, the shopping!!!! Oh, the things you could buy! I could have gone a little crazy, and maybe I did…

I simply had to buy these salt and pepper shakers and this mug!!!

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And a key chain and a magnet and Lego erasers for my piano students. I would have loved to go through the wall of bins of Legos arranged by colors of the rainbow…about four or five times bigger than any wall I’ve seen at any Lego Store. But it was starting to get excessive. :-)

Then, we had time and energy for just one more ride.

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The view of the grounds from above….

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It was a delightful day. It looks like they are planning an expansion too, so it would be fun to go back in a few years. All the models were definitely worth seeing, especially when you know and understand how much time and effort went into each one. 

Would I travel to Florida just to see LegoLand? Probably not.

But was it a nice addendum to a trip already planned? Absolutely. It was a great combination of amusement park fun and celebration of all things Lego.

And with that, I conclude my 2015 Vacay posts. :-)

Happy Sunday, and happy March!