lukeandmanda

The most amazing love story since Romeo and Juliet haha

Archive for the month “August, 2016”

Prune My Heart, Oh God, Make It Ever True

All gardeners will tell you that keeping up those “Yards of the Year” are a LOT of work. There is constant work to be done, especially if you have rose bushes. You must prune them, care for them and monitor them constantly for them to thrive. My grandmother Omi is a world-class landscaper and gardener, and her yard looks pristine 365 days of the year. She even grows her own tomatoes and cucumbers in her vegetable garden, her own mint and parsley in her herb garden, etc. However, she puts in hours and hours and still more hours of work on that yard. When planning a summer visit, she must be cautious because her plants will die if they are left alone to wilt in the heat; she often waters them by hand 2-3 times per DAY.

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But, because she is conscientious and careful about caring for her plants, pruning them back as needed and not allowing weeds to take over or take root in her beautiful flower beds, her plants are lush and green, her tomatoes perfectly round and succulent, and her roses bloom in the brightest shades of red and pink.

In our lives, God is the Great Gardener, the One pruning back the weeds in our hearts, guiding us carefully through trials and troubles of many kinds so that we may gain wisdom and reliance upon Him. He doesn’t promise that we will have carefree lives and that the weeds will never threaten to take over; in fact, the opposite. “In this life, you will have tribulation. But, take heart; for I have overcome the world.” John 16:33.

The cliched phrase “God will never give you more than you can handle” is not based in Biblical truth. Many times, we will find ourselves with more than we can handle ALONE. That is just the point though. All things are possible through God, and in those times, He wants us to draw closer to Himself as He can conquer all.

My Great Aunt Helen used to have a painting in her home that looked a lot like this:

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What a poignant reminder of God’s grace and love for us! He is there with us every step of the way even when all seems lost, we are despondent and aimlessly searching through the things of this world for answers. His words are found in the Bible, the one true Map that will guide us through the Deep Waters and onto High Ground once again.

As I think of mine and Luke’s journey to Oklahoma, I think of all the past experiences that prepared us for this exact chapter. And, in that 20/20 hindsight, I see all of the ways we were forged through the fire back in GA, all the ways that we were growing as Children of Christ, as spouses, as leaders, as professionals, as friends, as siblings when we didn’t even realize it…What wasn’t clear to me then as I questioned why a day was particularly tough, why a friendship came to a clear end, why a new “quirky” coworker was there for what seemed to be the sole purpose of irritating me…it is so much more transparent now. I see that through those tough days, I gained perseverance, through that friendship ending, I learned how to be a better friend in the future, and through that difficult relationship with a coworker, I learned how to discern when someone is lashing out because they are in pain and how to respond in grace and love. Most of the irritating things that he/she did could all be tied back to their own personal experiences and trials and had nothing to do with me. This is an overly simplistic explanation of course, but I cannot wait to get to Heaven one day to meet Jesus and find out why some things have occurred in my life the way that they have!

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I recently re-read this book just last week– a great story about how all of our stories are intertwined with purpose. No spoiler alerts here, but when a elderly man dies, an amusement park maintenance worker, someone who doesn’t feel that he lived any kind of remarkable life at all, he finds out just how much impact he actually had on a variety of others. When he gets to Heaven, he has the opportunity to interact with five different people who explain different lessons to him. He was in each of their lives for a clear purpose–some of whom he never even met face to face, and some of whom played major roles in the cast of his life.

This past week we received the very sweetest card in the mail from a woman whom I have never met in person, and whom Luke has met only once before. And, I will treasure this card for the rest of our lives. You see one of our good friends passed away a couple of months ago, very unexpectedly at a very young age. We were heartbroken of course, and several of Luke’s West Point class shared things on his Facebook page, including us, and others sent something to the Memorial Service. Because we found out about the Service with very late notice, I found myself in a restaurant, on a Sunday of all days, trying to find a florist in his home state who could help us contribute to the service as well. As you may have guessed, most flower shops are closed on Sundays. I struck out twice before finding a kind customer service representative who just happened to be at work cleaning the store and seemed interested in our story. He had heard about our friend’s death on the news, but still, he couldn’t help us. He said their stock was very diminished from a recent wedding; their delivery truck didn’t arrive until Tuesday, there was nothing he could do. He suggested several places for me to call instead. In a leap of faith, I begged him to help me. I said “Do you have anything at all we could use? This is so important to our family.” He hesitated and said, “Well I have one pot. You could come pick it up today and buy something at Lowe’s to put into it.”

We live several hundred miles away. I told him that just wasn’t possible, could they please put it together and deliver it for us? The funeral was less than 20 hours away. He told me he would call the owner and call me back. Disheartened, I assumed we would hear again that there was nothing he could do, if he even bothered to call me back. It truly seemed hopeless; there would be no way we could contribute to the Service at this point. To my great surprise, he called back 15 minutes later, and in excitement told me he had found something that just might work! It was nothing like a funeral spray though. It was a simple pot, but they could deliver it, and work some red, white and blue into it to display the patriotism of Luke’s comrade and friend. The funeral service was just 5 minutes from that shop, so a delivery was no problem! We were beyond grateful and gave him our credit card information, but to this day, we don’t exactly know what that kind Angel chose to deliver on our behalf.

A couple months went by, and we heard from a mutual friend that the Mother of our friend who passed away wanted to get in touch with us. We were a little surprised because the outpouring of support she received after her son’s death was immense. He was so well loved and the Long Gray Line had really stepped forward to honor him properly with far more important people than us. A few days ago, we received a hand written thank you note with her name monogrammed on the front, and I opened it, grateful that she thought enough of us to write, but mostly expecting a form letter-type of thank you in light of this unthinkably difficult time. Instead, we received a true outpouring from her heart of her thoughts, feelings and emotions covering the front and back of the card; an expression of true gratitude for our particular social media post, which had a video of her son that I had saved leading up to our wedding. Through that video, she was able to see and hear him one last time. Also, the simple pot we sent has graced her patio all summer as a reminder of her son. I was floored with this heartfelt thank you, and I learned once again the importance of small kindnesses. What if that shop assistant hadn’t been willing to help me? What if that florist just said “No” which was well within her rights on a Sunday with no stock at all? I am so grateful that they went the extra mile for us that day, in a way that meant so much to his family. This is such a classic example of the goodness that can be found in people’s hearts, that I couldn’t help but share. You never know how your words or actions can indelibly impact another’s life.

In our lives, I firmly believe that God loves us and wants the very best for us as His children. But often, just like in the garden, pruning is necessary for us to become the best versions of ourselves, for us to be the people God intends for us to be. If everything was easy, if no weeds threatened to grow over the rose bushes, if no winter storms loomed to destroy the flowers with frost bite, if no droughts threatened to starve them of nourishment, the plants would not need the Gardener.

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“Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.” John 15:2.

Best wishes,

Manda

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The Blessing of Luke

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My husband officially hates compliments and being the Center of Attention. So, this post will probably embarrass him to some extent. Thus, I plan to keep it short and sweet. But, leading up to our third Wedding Anniversary in just a few weeks, I could not resist sharing just a little about this man and the undeniable impact he has on my life each and every day.

Most importantly of course, Luke loves God above all else (including me.) Yes, that’s right. I am starting this sappy post about my husband off telling you he loves Someone so much more than me. And, I am beyond grateful for that. God comes first and then your spouse. Luke has had a personal relationship with Jesus Christ for years, and I have loved watching him continue to grow spiritually and take over as Spiritual Leader of our household when we got married in 2013. A cord of three strands is not easily broken, and Luke helps make it easy to keep perspective and Christ front and center.

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Next though, he loves ME above everyone else and puts me first (as much as Uncle Sam will let him by law!) Not all spouses do this, and I have seen firsthand what happens when you put someone other than God himself above your spouse. No one deserves that place; not a parent, not a friend, not a sibling or even a child. You have to be a spouse first and then a daughter, friend, sister and mother. Sometimes, I truly wonder how I got so lucky because I really won the marriage lottery with this Godly man who loves me so.

That smile of his lights up my world, and the laughter and humor that he brings home with him daily, even after a tough day at the office, is my sunshine. Like most Army officers, Luke works exceptionally long hours doing a lot of physical labor in inclement weather. Hot or cold, rain or shine, there is usually a good chance Luke is spending at least part of his day outdoors, working hard for our family. He will never know just how much I appreciate his dedication to providing for us. He goes above and beyond at work, never settling for the bare minimum or “just wanting to get by.” His work ethic is just another reason I love him so very much.

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Luke, like most guys, is able to compartmentalize his day. Meaning no matter how stressed he may be at work, he usually does not bring it home with him or take it out on me. He just closes the “work box” and opens the “Manda box” when he comes through the door. At home, you can find him willingly helping out with household chores, even when his day is almost always longer and more physically strenuous than mine.

(Now, he’s not perfect, ladies….We still have ACU’s left on the floor, dishes left in the sink, etc.) But more often than not, he will help me or WOULD help me if I asked him to. We actually got into  a small “discussion” about that this past week. I was feeling particularly tired after a long work day and didn’t want to cook that night as planned. I called Luke and tried to beat around the bush about not cooking…But, I never directly asked if HE would cook or if we could go out to eat. Like most men, Luke isn’t the best about hints. So, when he didn’t agree to change the plans, I drug myself to the commissary to get the supplies for dinner and came home a half hour later in a bit of a bad mood. As I set about to make the dinner, he came up and gave me a hug and asked me if we could please talk about this.Frustrated, I started trying to get pots and pans out to just get the cooking over with. But, he insisted we talk it out first. Turns out, it was a miscommunication on my end. He rightly pointed out that he never gets upset if I don’t cook, and if I had only asked him directly, clearly communicating what I wanted, he could have made something, we could have ordered a pizza, etc. Instead, my unwillingness to just state what I wanted in plain terms could have led to resentment on both our parts and ultimately a bigger argument. This is what I call a “Rookie Mistake” in marriage; it is typically ineffective to expect my very manly husband to respond with the sensitive intuition of a female friend. Whereas girl friends typically just get up to help you because they PERCEIVE that you could use a hand, husbands don’t always have the same intuitive powers. They like things spelled out, and when my requests are put out there in a straightforward manner, Luke is happy to help.

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Another night this week, Luke cooked our dinner all by himself. To celebrate the end of my training in the Kitchen at Chick-fil-A, Luke made breakfast for dinner. He went by the Commissary himself (a true testament to his love for me because he hates that place worse than I do on Pay Day!) and picked up my favorite breakfast item: hashbrowns. He asked me for my other menu requests and ended up making cheesy eggs, hashbrowns, biscuits and bacon for us. It was such a perfect meal! And, the kicker was he even cleaned afterward too!

And then he did this all on his own…

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The Bane of My Existence for the past 2 months has been the weeds in our front flower bed. Before we moved in, Corvias Military did NOT clean out our flower beds properly, so it looked something akin to a mini jungle. (You can see a little of what it looked like on the left, where our neighbor’s weeds are currently.) On his off day, Luke spent 3-4 hours cleaning up this flower bed for me. He still plans to fill in those holes with some mulch/fertilizer, but he had it all done for me as a surprise when I got home from work. He also hung this American flag for me because he knew I really wanted one! I love our front yard now, and every time I walk out the door I can physically see Luke’s love for me.

Now, Luke and I neither one are huge household chore people. We both work a lot of hours and find ourselves tired more often than not. So, when my friend and neighbor recommended a Cleaning Lady to us, we were more than happy to sign on with her once a month or so, to help me with some of the deeper cleaning tasks. I am beyond blessed to have a husband who sees my need for help and is either willing to pitch in himself or get me someone who can!

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Luke recognizes and appreciates my love for travel and adventure! The military has given us a variety of opportunities for that and to get all dressed up for balls and formal dinners. This picture was from Savannah, GA in January of 2015. But, having a travel buddy who is willing to explore new places with you is such a blessing in a spouse. We have a shared dream of a Grand Italian Vacation somewhere between our 4th and 5th Wedding Anniversaries, and planning that with him has been probably half as much fun as actually going will be! I love that our goals are like-minded and that we have similar dreams for the future and where we hope life will take us.

Finally, Luke tells me he loves me every single day. I KNOW how blessed I am to have this, and I try so hard not to take it for granted because it is so very valuable and important. Ever since we were first in a long distance relationship he did this, first over text and then the phone. But, not a day goes by where I don’t know he loves me with all his heart and that is because he takes the time to vocalize it. Sure, all of his actions, his help around the house, the date nights he plans, the adventures he wants to share with me, the flowers he brings home, show it.

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But, there is literally nothing like hearing those three little words from your spouse every day. Each anniversary and Valentine’s Day, we take the time to write each other a private letter expressing our feelings about the other one for that year. This tradition began even before our Wedding Day, and these letters are so special to me. I treasure them all in a private scrapbook album. But as much as I adore holidays (any of my friends or Luke could tell you that!), the day-to-day love is what keeps a marriage going. And this man is simply exceptional at loving me.

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Here is a small snippet of the fairytale proposal he planned for me back in 2012. Luke flew down to GA from Oklahoma for literally 18 hours to ask me to be his wife in the middle of the Azalea Bowl at Callaway Gardens. I truly could not have asked for a better, more thoughtful and considerate husband to share my life with. And, my answer today is still YES. (Well, “of course!” is how I actually responded.) But, yes, yes, a thousand times yes. Luke, you are my best “yes.” I love you, Forever & Always, Sweetheart.

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