My Loves

the wedding binder

 image by Stacey Woods Photography

image by Stacey Woods Photography

It was my very first purchase after he proposed and I said yes...or, more accurately, I said "are you sure?" and then I said "yes!" Not just any old wedding planner would do. It would have to be perfect. I had been the stereotypical little girl who dreamed about her wedding and her Prince Charming. I would play with my porcelain bride dolls (which happen to also wind up and play "Here Comes the Bride") and imagine my Prince Charming. A hopeless romantic. In love with love.   When I was older I began looking at all the bridal magazines. I loved my family management classes in high school and soaked in all the information about planning weddings...and a bit about the whole planning a marriage thing too. In college I would actually buy those bridal magazines and comb through them. I held onto them and dog eared my favorite things. Martha Stewarts were my favorite. So, naturally, when it came time to purchase my wedding planner, I knew it had to be the one from Martha. In her signature blue, it had everything a girl could ever need in what would hold all the essentials in planning her big day plus room to add more. I began to fill it with my dreams...and Bret's too, of course. Images of dresses, tuxes, favors, flowers, decorations, wedding DIYs, sample timelines, vows, business cards, quotes, lists of local vendors, all my research of all the things, and, of course, dream weddings. We wanted our friends and family to walk away with a better sense of who we were. We wanted them to see us in all the details. To see our love. We would have different shades of pink, obviously...that's my favorite color. Bret insisted on actual bow clip ons for him. We picked a location for the reception that screamed KY, with its rolling hills and beautiful sunsets (Talon of my favorite places to shoot to this day). I picked my dress out online and knew it was the one before I even tried it on. I knew we had to have a sparkler exit, so cute little pink matches were the perfect favor. I DIYed everything I could...invitations, decorating the unity candle, the centerpieces. Every detail was just us. Our story. Our love.

That Martha Stewart blue binder was bursting at the seams with details for one day. One beautiful day that was exactly 13 years ago. What it didn't include, what it was so obviously missing, how to plan a marriage. It didn't include details on how to organize finances. It didn't give helpful tips on how to disagree with love and respect. It didn't warn there may be times when you still feel lonely and scared of what the future holds. It didn't tell how to plan for infertility and the possibility of never having a child. It didn't teach about having empathy for your partner even when you don't really understand their thinking. It didn't tell us how to truly be partners. It didn't guide us in knowing how to be gentle with each other while going through those first few months of bringing home a newborn. It didn't give either of us tips on how to handle a mommas postpartum depression. It didn't teach us about giving the best of ourselves. It didn't say we should take a date night once a week or continue to actually date or pursue each other after the wedding. It didn't demand we find a way to have a work life "balance" or how to handle the ups and downs of careers and owning small businesses. I'm thankful we included the 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 in our ceremony or it wouldn't have even included anything about what love actually is. I don't blame Martha. I mean, how could she know what our lives would hold. How could we even know that? 

We learned the secrets to love and marriage can't be held within a binder. They are held within our days. Within each moment, each struggle, each "I love you", each spin around the kitchen, each kiss.  We learned how to love when we fought infertility and held each others hands through IVF. We learned to love when we felt the tiny kicks of our baby for the first time. We learned to love when he held me as I pushed our sweet baby boy into the world. We learned to love as we struggled through the first few months of being new parents and the journey through postpartum depression. We learned to love through owning a home and all...the...projects. We learned to love through the laughter. We learned to love through the tears. We learned to love through miscommunication and every "I'm sorry". We learned to love through slammed doors and raised voices. We learned to love through holding hands and big kisses and "good efforts". We learned to love through watching t-ball games and five year old basketball...laughing and cheering. We learned to love through honey-do lists. We learned to love through dreams coming true and the disappointment of dreams missed. We learned to love through books and experts and therapy. We learned to love through self growth and self care. We learned to love through loving ourselves first. We learned to love through dates and many wonderful surprises. We learned to love through church hymns and prayers. We learned to love at Friday night football games and late night talks after. We learned to love through rushed mornings and slow summers. We learned to love through teaching our son to ride his bike and skinned knees. We learned to love through seeing friends and family rise and fall. We learned to love through long talks and silence. We learned to love through slow dances and silly family dances. Mostly, we learned to love from choosing each other every single day...through all the beauty, all the darkness, all the passion, and all the fear.

It's not like I imagined when I put together that perfect little blue Martha Stewart wedding binder all those years ago. It's better, stronger, more colorful, and more full of imperfect beauty than I had ever imagined. It's us. It's our story. It's our love. 

I love you, babe! Happy 13 year anniversary! I'm sorry I forgot to tell you this morning in the mad rush to get out the door. I'm so thankful you choose me every day. Can we have a dance in the kitchen tonight? And maybe not cook in it? You know...after football practice and your radio interview and soccer practice. I promise I'll try not to fall asleep when I lay down with Steff. 

So much love...


because you are so loved.

Hi, friends! It has been so long since my last post and I miss you immensely. Over the years, I have tried with all my might to blog on a regular basis and I've promised the moon and stars. Today, I will promise this, I want to write. I think of all of you often. I am going to take it one post, one day, at a time. Here is my love for today...

Some of you may recognize the beginning of this from the newsletter on my last birthday. Consider this my mission statement. 

I always thought "by the time I'm 40 I will have it all figured out". Now that 40 is ever so near I am letting go of that. I don't want to have it all figured out. I want to learn and grow and heal. I want to live with grace. I want to let go of perfection. I want to laugh and love loudly. I want to breath and hug slowly. I want my eyes to always be open to the beauty and heart ache of life. I want to soak every bit of it in. I want to dance in my kitchen. I want to say yes to what's important and no to what isn't...and I want the courage to know the difference. I want to use every single fall along my journey as a chance to grow and heal and learn the deep lessons that only the falls can teach. I want to know that my unique sensitivity to life is never a weakness, even when it feels like it's a heavy burden to bare. I want to dip my toes into the ocean as much as I can. I want to collect all the seashells I can carry in my hands. I want the sand to find it's way into every nook and cranny of my car, my towels, my hair, and anywhere else it tends to find because it means I was there. I didn't worry about the mess...I worried about the joy. I want to sit alone with God every morning before the sun even rises. I want to sing even though I never seem to know the right words or have the right melody. I want to walk and run and hike because I have legs that will carry me. I want to cry...I want to cry every tear that needs to escape my eyes because tears mean I feel and feeling means I am alive and I am human. I want to hold hands. I want to witness the majesty of God's creation ALL around me, in all the ordinary moments because God created every bit of it...and created ME. I was worthy of creation. I want to run through the sprinklers. I want to embrace my curly hair and my thighs. I want to wear the swimsuit. I want my life to be dictated by joy...not anxiety...not fear...not depression...not trauma...not worry of what others may think or the need to please...not unhealthy food choices. I, also, want to eat the damn cake because every now and then we need cake in our lives people. I want to blow out all the candles and make all the wishes on shooting stars. I want to kiss. Oh how I love kisses. I want to dig in my garden and eat fresh tomatoes and strawberries before they ever make it to the kitchen. I want to love the world the best I can and I want to love my people with fierceness. 

My best friend likes to remind me that on our last day of elementary school (for us that was 4th grade) I cried and said "but things will never be the same". What I didn't realize then was the same is true for every single day of our lives. This day will never be the same as the day before. This too shall pass. Life will continue to move quickly and things will continue to change. Time, like all the best things in life, is bitter sweet. It gives us life and love and moments that we will always cherish, but it also takes them away. My sweet little boy who I can still hold in my arms will, hopefully, one day be too big to pick up, will no longer ask for "night night tickles" or for "one more minute". The spins and kisses and hand holding I get from the one I said "I do" to are not guaranteed for tomorrow. The only choice I have is to love. The only regret I don't want is the one that says I didn't love enough. 


Why? Because I am already loved. YOU are already loved. We are loved for our imperfections, not despite them. Each thing that makes up your life...each tear, each heart ache, each fear, each worry, each mistake, each joy, each laugh, each struggle, each trauma, each beauty filled, breath taking, brutal..soul stomping..awful...thing in your life and my just another color of who we are. Sometimes it may look messy up close, right in the middle of it where all the noise is.  Some days it will feel dark and lonely and like there is no color left in the world and you'll feel like you can't breath. Some days you'll be filled with so much color and light and beauty that your heart will nearly burst with joy. Some days we'll feel lost. Some days we'll feel content. When the clutter clears, and the dust settles, we will look back and see the artistry in the colors...the artistry in the dark and in the light...the artistry in our becoming. Not becoming who society or our fears tell us we should be. Becoming the one love and life has made us to be. Sometimes full of happiness...sometimes full of darkness...full of joy...perfectly imperfect humans. Loved. Love. 

The words "everything happens for a reason" use to roll smoothly off my tongue. Now, I hesitate. I hesitate because I've seen childhood cancer and I know I cannot look at those parents and say those very words. What I do believe is this...there is always love. In that love...there is beauty. Beauty isn't always isn't always easy or even visible. Beautiful, awful, heart wrenching, things full of life and purpose can come from the darkest of days. We live in a broken world full of pain, and at the same time, we live in a joyful world full of beauty. Each make up our unique painting that can be used to bring more love into the world.

My purpose is use my use my use my sadness and use my happiness and use my use my use my unique love the people in front of me...and to remind them they are loved.

So much love,