The most amazing love story since Romeo and Juliet haha

Archive for the month “September, 2016”

I’ll Be Happy When…I am FINALLY Happy Now.


How easy it is to fall into Satan’s trap of wishing away our “right now” to look at our image of the future. The seasons of life–Summer, Fall Winter Spring–pass in a blur of “I’ll Be Happy When’s.”

I’ll Be Happy When…I don’t have to have a babysitter anymore and can stay home alone.

I’ll Be Happy When…I can sit in the front seat of the car and not the back like a baby.

I’ll Be Happy When…I ace this exam.

I’ll Be Happy When…my shots are over at the doctor’s and I get a milkshake.

I’ll Be Happy When…we drop my brother off at baseball practice and I can listen to MY favorite radio station.

I’ll Be Happy When…my braces come off.

And the bigger ones….

I’ll Be Happy When….I graduate from high school. And College. And graduate school.

I’ll Be Happy When…I fall in love. And get engaged. AND get married.

I’ll Be Happy When…we buy a huge house with a lot of acreage.

I’ll Be Happy When…we make a ton of money and get to travel the world/share the Gospel/buy ridiculously expensive things.

I’ll Be Happy When…We have kids. And those kids grow up & move out and we have peace and quiet–time for just us.

I’ll Be Happy When…My spouse retires and we have more time together.

Goodness, there are so many “when’s.” But those when’s may or may not ever occur! Our only guarantee is today; time is fleeting, and I believe it is each person’s responsibility to make the most of every day they are given until the final, “I’ll Be Happy When….”

I’ll Be Happy When…I finally get to Heaven and get to meet Jesus.

The whole rest of the list is so trivial when it comes to that last point–Meeting Jesus. That is what our whole life should center around. Our actions in this season (in every season) should reflect contentment and joy in His perfect plan for our lives (even if that plan doesn’t line up with our self-made one.) Instead, of “I’ll Be Happy When’s,” I want to have that “I am Happy Now” attitude, in all things, good and bad. What good can be found of TODAY–the gift of the present? What joy could you and I be missing out on if we focus on the “what’s next” above the “what’s now?”


I am Happy Now, because God loved me enough to send his only begotten Son to die on the cross for my sins and save me from the fiery depths of Hell.

I am Happy Now because no matter where this life takes me, I know I will spend my forever in Heaven with Him.

I am Happy Now, because I get the chance to be a wife and share God’s love with my husband, unconditionally, for this moment in time.

I am Happy Now, because I get to live in a new place (Oklahoma) and have new experiences and meet so many new people. I hope to touch their lives, even just a little, with some of the love that Christ has shared with me.

I am Happy Now, because  Jesus put me here, in this season, to overcome trials of many sorts; through His grace, I can exemplify grace to others. Through the challenges I overcome, I will become strong.

I am Happy Now because my life is not perfect; I can use each new opportunity as a learning opportunity to grow in the Spirit.

I am Happy Now because I know Jesus, even though I am not in Heaven yet. He wants to have a relationship with me here on this Earth as my best friend and savior, and He wants to have a relationship with you too!

What makes you happy now? I’ve found a lot of happiness comes down to perspective. Are we focusing on those “have not’s,” those ideas that we aren’t quite keeping up with the mythical Jones’ family? Or are we focusing on what we DO have, which is probably more plentiful than any of us realize on any given day–at least it is in my life!


If you had a Blessings Jar for each day, what would you put into it? There is at least one thing we can be thankful for every day (beyond just November!) I think I may start one for myself if anyone wants to join me on the pursuit of being Happy Now. It’s easy–no real lead up or planning- you just simply Be. 🙂




Letting go of a dream: My decision to resign from Teach for America


Part I- The Big Decision

***Note: This blog was written in May of 2013, summarizing my thoughts as I decided about whether or not to go through with Teach for America/Institute. I did not publish it until 2016 because I did not feel at peace with sharing these thoughts, but three years later, I do, in hopes that it may help someone else.

As I finalized the seemingly endless checklist that Teach for America created for me to complete before the start of summer institute (a six-week boot camp designed to train soon-to-be new teachers), I was nervous, puzzled, unsure. None of these feelings existed for me just 6 months ago when I got that email saying that I was accepted into the 2013 Corps. At that time, I was elated. Over the moon with excitement. My heart sped up as I opened the email that I had waited for on pins and needles throughout the two month-long interview process. I pressed “open,” and my mouth went dry. I still remember searching, dreading those words, “We regret to inform you..” but instead found the exact opposite, right in front of my face, in black and white. “Welcome to the 2013 Teach For America Corps!” I had done it! I had gotten into a program with a 12 percent acceptance rate nationally.

I then learned that my regional placement was ideal- my first choice. Since my soon-to-be spouse has an inflexible job assignment, I really wanted to Metro Atlanta, and that’s exactly what I got! The region meant an end to our long distance relationship and a fresh start for us both. I had been assigned an interdisciplinary assignment: Elementary Education and Secondary Political Science. But, elementary school (my first choice!) was my primary placement. I was told to prepare to teach elementary school; the political science was a Plan B. I already knew I was not comfortable teaching any other subjects, aside from English or writing, so this was perfect!

After a few giddy phone calls and text messages, my friend came over to take me out for a hard-earned margarita. She told me I deserved it after a grueling interview process. But, I had done it! I had received the best news in the world. This was November of 2012. I was in on the first deadline! Which meant I did not have to worry about getting a job after college graduation like most of my other classmates. I was in, and all I had to do was wait to discover my exact placement in a school, which is typically determined during summer institute.

Sure, I had to take a certification test and cross my “t’s” and dot my “i’s,” but I had a job! A real life, big girl job. Since elementary school was my primary placement, I studied for those tests over Christmas Break and passed with flying colors in January. Unfortunately, the GACE (Georgia certification) tests are only offered via paper and pencil on certain Saturdays in Georgia. I realized that day in November that I would be unable to take any tests on subsequent dates, as I would be in Spain in March, attending my college graduation in May and acting as a bridesmaid in a good friend’s wedding in June. Thus, I wanted to take both the political science and elementary tests in one session in January and get them over with. However, this was not possible. They were only offered in the morning, overlapping each other. I worked for weeks, which turned into months, incessantly contacting my in-processing team to try to find a solution: some way around taking the other (political science) test, some other date to take it, some other arrangement that could be made, some other subject I could take a test in. Perhaps English, which was closer to my major, after all? I received very few responses from my “onboarding” staff, who seemed to be extremely unorganized, apathetic and preoccupied.

I was told there was nothing anyone could do on the few times that I actually got responses. Instead, they “strongly suggested” I move one of my conflicts, all of which had been determined well before I was accepted to the program. (All three of these conflicts are major milestones that should not have to be missed for any reason.) Perhaps the most frustrating aspect is that no one seemed willing to work with me throughout the whole process.

Months went by. No solution was found. No one replied to my dozens of emails proposing solutions, asking for help. I finally received one phone call around mid-April that was not helpful. I was told to “prioritize,” to miss my college graduation if that’s what it came down to. “Just take that test.” Some insinuated I lie about my religious beliefs so as to be allowed to test on a Sunday instead of a Saturday, which is the only reason the GACE can be taken on a day that is not Saturday. I ultimately refused. I was then told to take a computer-based secondary science test instead. I told them I was uncomfortable teaching that subject, as I have only had TWO college science classes. I have never even had physics! They suggested I study and take it. (Again, this was ONE WEEK before the testing window ended.) I was in the process of publishing an international magazine and did not even have study materials. Mind you, each of these tests costs $200+, and I had already dropped that money on the elementary tests. I did not want to pay to take a science test I was unsure if I could pass and ultimately would not want to teach. That would do such a disservice to the kids in Atlanta.

Graduation came and went. I graduated summa cum laude from a large University in the Southeastern United States. I received the award for the outstanding graduating senior in my department. Still, to TFA I was just a name- a number. They didn’t know me any more than it would seem I knew them. Then, less than two weeks before I was supposed to report to institute, I was told again that elementary school jobs in Atlanta are scarce this year. (I was quoted that there are LESS THAN TEN ELEMENTARY JOBS for all Corps members placed in the region). Then why did they accept all of us and virtually guarantee us a job? Why was no one willing to work with us previously, when some of us had concerns? In fact, I was told if I did not take a secondary test (they were OK with me taking ANYTHING at this point..why didn’t they tell me that when I suggested taking English in January?), I would not be placed into a job at all. I would also essentially be forced to resign from the program through a process known as emergency release after I endured 5 weeks of Institute. Where are all the jobs? I knew they had done this in Atlanta last year..Taken on far more corps members than they had jobs. I had been virtually promised this could not and would not happen again when I chose Atlanta.

Sometimes I feel like I’ve been fed a big line with no basis to back it up. That all of the recruiting was a facade, a smokescreen for the reality of the organization. But, what of my passion for teaching my hard work to get here, my desire to make a difference?

Well, there is one more test date left, which comes with a BIG conflict that affects far more than just myself. I could potentially ruin a friendship if I do what they are asking, and yet I am backed against a corner, stuck between a rock and a hard place. Am I willing to jump through this hoop? I am not finding a definite answer. I want to participate in this program, which I worked so hard to get into. I want to have a chance – however slim that might be- of making a difference for my future students (none of whom I know or can even envision at this stage.) But what if TFA is nothing like I pictured, as I am starting to doubt? What if the horror stories sprinkled around the Web have more basis than I thought? What if I am just another naive college grad, with no earthly idea of what I am up against in these next two years?  What if all of my preparation to get to this stage is for naught?

Maybe this is just the way that a major life transition feels. But I feel off-kilter, off balance. As if I should feel more of that elation, that joy and passion that inspired me to join this movement. The same joy I felt when I opened that first email.

Maybe it’s just nerves after all.

Part II- Going Left Instead of Right at the Crossroads

If you look back on my first blog post, I was at a crossroads. To Teach For America or not to Teach? In the end, I did the inevitable. The ONLY right decision for me. I came to this decision in my heart before I spoke with various mentors and trusted confidantes, but a few sincere conversations and many fervent prayers helped to reinforce what I already knew.
I said “No” to TFA a day and a half before I was to attend Institute. I turned down a guaranteed salary and a job with no other opportunities yet on the table. However, I turned down a job which I know would have been challenging, chaotic and perhaps even unbearable during my first year of marriage. With a 1.5 hour commute each way, the drive alone would have been no easy feat each day, assuming I had been placed in southern Atlanta.
I made the right decision for myself and my husband, and I feel very secure in the fact that I declined the Corps. While I have high respect for some of my peers who participate in the 2013 Corps, it is certainly not an experience for everyone. And, once you are sucked in to the TFA mindset, it can be very difficult to say “no.” If you have ever applied or considered applying even, you probably know what I mean. TFA is nothing if not a marketing mastermind. To listen to the voices around you- the very wise voices- who are begging you to be cautious is hard. To heed those who are telling you the very real cons of the organization and concerns that the achievement gap is not lessening at all- that you, an untrained novice, could do more harm than good in a classroom environment is tough. It’s difficult to want to take the time to discuss concerns with those trusted advisers who are asking you to reconsider for your safety and well-being, alone. If I had gone through with the position I was offered, I have no doubt I would be miserable today.
I feel the need to write this blog post to explain my decision to others that may be considering applying to the Corps or deliberating a hard decision to resign. Countless blogs exist on the pros and cons of the organization that discuss educational reform far more eloquently than I. Tons of personal accounts can be found that give you an honest perspective of what it’s like in a TFA classroom from those who have literally battled in the trenches. I know because I read all of them. Twice. The first time, in November when I applied (exactly one year ago,) I ignored it all. Anything negative was quickly minimized or closed. I blamed the writers (i.e. Former Corps Members.) They were sensitive. Naive. They just couldn’t handle it. I knew I could. The second time- the week before Institute- I began to take these stories more seriously. This was not just one or two people speaking out against TFA. It was hundreds. Hundreds of people recounting horror stories is not exactly a fluke. Countless accounts from the media, educational reformers and researchers drew a far different picture than TFA did. A picture that I had chosen to ignore thus far. As a journalist, I was trained to look at both sides. In May of 2013, I FINALLY did. I listened to those who did- and still do- toot the TFA horn. They had a great experience and were blessed. But, the alternative- those who had horrendous experiences- was too descriptive, too brutally honest and too heart wrenching to ignore.
I am a marketing professional now, and I truly believe that Teach for America relies on some serious account planning to attract top tier college students to a field with little pay and even less “prestige” in the traditional sense of the word. In a study that I worked on during my senior year of college, I learned that only 9 percent of the students I surveyed on campus saw teaching as “prestigious.” Convincing college students from top programs to apply to a two-year teaching commitment in an undesirable area of the country takes communications skill.
How does TFA hook its recruits, you may ask?
The average college senior is majorly stressed out about finding a job and a steady salary, especially in this economy. Many of us also still possess ambitions to “make a difference,” “to give back to our community” and to “help those who are less fortunate.” After all, we just had the opportunity to complete a very valuable college education. TFA capitalizes on these feelings of desperation and a sense of philanthropy very successfully. With recruitment teams at most colleges across the nation, TFA receives more than 50,000 applications a year for 5,000 openings, according to their website. The selectivity of the organization and the idea that “it looks great on a resume,” keeps the applications pouring in.
 With the promise of a guaranteed job for two years along with a secure starting teacher’s salary, the program reaches those kids who simply don’t want to move back home with mom and dad. The prestige associated with TFA because of its exclusive nature attracts many others, who need another bullet point to add to their resumes for law school or medical school, or simply want to prove that they can make the cut. The philanthropic aspects of the organization also seal the deal by making recruits feel as if they can make a real difference for children in need. Looking back, I know that I applied for all of the reasons above and more, feeling great about my decision at the time.
The truth is that TFA recruits HEAVILY, and their promises are not always backed up in action. The Recruitment Coordinators maintain databases of the top students on any respective campus and invite these students to exclusive parties where they meet current and former TFA members who will tell them about their life-transforming experience in the Corps. Some call this mentality “drinking the Kool Aid.” I was enamored with this organization during my application process and eagerly soaked up every positive article and story from alumni about the difference that they created in their classrooms.
However, in the end, it became a cost-benefit analysis. The potential change that I could make did not outweigh the risks.
Many, such as Gary Rubenstein, a former TFA-er turned critic of the program, questions the information that is disseminated to the public and the effectiveness of the Corps itself.
“On their website, it says 41 percent of the first-years achieve a year and a half worth of progress in one year…When I hear this, as a veteran educator, it’s like hearing that there’s a group of rookie baseball pitchers that all throw the ball 200 miles per hour. It just – it’s not the way it works. I’ve been teaching for almost 20 years. I don’t know that I get a year and a half of growth every year” (Martin, 2012).
According to Wendy Heller Chovnick, a former TFA manager, the organization runs an incredibly strong PR campaign that works hard to stifle any negative publicity. Rather than respond to complaints, Chovnick states that TFA ignores it or counters it with positives instead.
 “Instead of engaging in real conversations with critics, and even supporters, about the weaknesses of Teach For America and where it falls short, Teach For America seemed to put a positive spin on everything.  During my tenure on staff, we even got a national team, the communications team, whose job it was to get positive press out about Teach For America in our region and to help us quickly and swiftly address any negative stories, press or media.  This inability and unwillingness to honestly address valid criticism made me start to see that Teach For America had turned into more of a public relations campaign than an organization truly committed to closing the achievement gap,” (Strauss, 2013).   

Tons of literature on TFA exists on the Worldwide Web. I encourage you to take a look at it — at ALL of it– both good and bad before you decide for yourself. Me? Well, I feel like I dodged a bullet at the very last second. I didn’t want to let anyone down- especially myself. I was scared and afraid to quit. But I did it, and it was the best professional decision I have ever made.

P.S. If you take the same route I did, just know this: Other jobs do exist. I found one that is even MORE perfect for me in this stage in my career, although it did take several weeks. Will I ever teach? Perhaps. I still have a passion to make a difference in the classroom. But there are plenty of classrooms out there that have nothing to do with TFA.

Martin, M. (2012, June 11). Is Teach for America failing?. Retrieved from
Strauss, V. (2013, July 13). A former Teach for America manager speaks out. Retrieved from

Here is some advice I sent to a friend when she wrote to me about TFA in January of this year:

  • Yes, I did apply to and was accepted to Teach for America in Metro Atlanta in 2013. I ultimately declined the position because it wasn’t the right fit for my family at the time. My husband is an officer in the Army, and we are stationed at Fort Benning, GA. Atlanta is an hour and a half away and while we were going to live in the middle, we decided it was ultimately too far and the long commutes both ways would be too much for us. Aside from our personal lives though, I had a few issues with TFA that perhaps would have made me decline even if I was not in the commute position. I applied for this organization because of a great passion for helping children and for bridging the income/resource gap. This cause seemed to perfectly align with that. But in my education minor in college, many teachers and professors seemed to highly look down upon TFA. They felt the training program – a mere 6 weeks during the summer- was extremely inadequate to throw fresh college grads who didn’t major in education into some of the toughest schools in America. The more I researched, the more I saw this perspective from countless personal blogs of TFA teachers and even from the TFA teachers I stayed with in ATL the weekend I went to took my certification tests to be able to teach in a classroom. They were in the middle of a nightmare semester- imagine little formal training, no resources, no principal support extreme behavior issues in the classrooms no parental involvement etc. one teacher had had her car windows shot at the previous week- no exaggeration. Again this is metro Atlanta and I know teachers in other environments have had different experiences. I have a friend who is a TFA teacher in Texas and was one of my biggest advocates in joining the Corps and she loves it! I would just recommend selecting your area carefully and evaluating what you like/dislike and what will work for your family. You will have to be enrolled in grad school while teaching full time so you should be prepared for that. I was going to have to take night classes in ATL- something I wasn’t thrilled about doing alone at night in an unfamiliar high crime city. They do require this though. The good thing is they pay for it with your Ameri Corps funding! You have to get a master’s in education though. I ultimately decided I want to pursue education at the collegiate level and be a professor so in retrospect I am glad I have my marketing and communications master vs masters in education- but that is a personal choice for me. The other issue I faced is lack of placement options. So basically TFA (at least in Atlanta my year, and I know it also happened this way in other. Regions too) was experiencing severe problems with the local school district that was totally beyond their control. Thus, they accepted say 100 of us in ATL counting on 100 jobs in different subjects. I wanted elementary Ed, and I got it. I was pumped! Then, rumors started flying there weren’t enough jobs for us. Only about 10 elementary jobs existed! They started pressuring me to test in science as a secondary subject. Science and math are my least favorite and least skilled subjects! I am in communications for a reason! I tried to resist and hold out for elementary and was told I would likely not have a job. They continued high pressure tactics to get me into a science classroom but I adamantly refused. I knew that in no way would me teaching science be best for those kiddos. It came down to I had to accept a science job or at least be open to it or go through my summer training with just elementary Ed and “hope for the best.” My recruiter suggested I use dishonest tactics to get out of it by stating my religion was different and required me to attend church on Saturdays to get out of the paper and pencil science test that I was required to take in person in Atlanta! I know a few people who were selected that ended up either without jobs or with jobs in a totally different subject than they were promised. Others had to teach special Ed without any kind of qualifications or move regions altogether. Either way, it became very sketchy and reinforced my decision to resign before summer training. I began to see what those teachers and professors meant when they said TFA is doing a disservice to kids by sending under qualified people into their schools. None of this is meant to be a discouragement but I did want to share my heart honestly with you so you can make an informed decision. I have shared this with others who asked me and some joined the corps and some did not. I think it’s totally a personal choice. Every experience is different – I know people who love it and people who hate it and quit 1 semester in! As far as the application went, it was rigorous. Once you get past the paper application, they may call you for a phone interview. I “skipped” this step based on the completeness of my app I guess. Then you have to do some computer activities and then you have an in person interview which includes teaching a lesson to a group of your peers. For the group I highly suggest exhibiting leadership! I collected all the Pens, helped organize the discussion etc. they want you to lead without being bossy or dominating the convo. The one on one interview was intense. They peppered me with questions one after the other for about 30-45 mins. If you proceed with applying I would be happy to review your materials/offer insight or answer any other questions you may have if I can! Sorry for the novel and good luck with your application and decision making process! Amanda

Finding Freedom in Freedom

Did you like my play on words there? 😉

I realized that I never published my promised update about mine and Luke’s anniversary trip to the rodeo in Freedom, OK a few weeks ago. It was one of our most unforgettable trips, so I most certainly have to share.

Texoma has many, many rodeos but there is none quite like this one. Nestled on the banks of the Cimarron River, Freedom is a tiny blip on the map; the town is so small there is no stoplight at all. There are no hotels in the quaint little Main Street area, and the closest place we found to stay was actually 45 minutes away. A throwback to Old Western days, all of the storefronts maintain an authentic Western facade, and there is literally no cell phone service for miles. We spent two nights and three days in total freedom of no connectivity, no worries about work and the outside world. In a rare throwback, it was just us, exploring Oklahoma and enjoying (my) first real rodeo–the 79th Annual Freedom Rodeo and Old Cowhand Reunion!

boots If you’re going to a rodeo, you have to look the part! These beauties were my Anniversary gift from Luke! We have always given one another “traditional” anniversary gifts. (Year 1- Paper, Year 2- Cotton, Year 3- Leather.) It worked out really well that we could incorporate our gifts into our trip. Luke got a cowboy hat!

We both took three days off work and headed out for Freedom, a 3.5 hour drive away. As we drove down winding country roads, past the massive wind turbines that are so common in this part of the country, and farther and farther from modern civilization, we relaxed into peaceful, companionable silence at times and excited chatter at others as we discussed all topics from future dreams to current ones. Then of course were the loud, off sync singing sessions to our favorite songs on the radio! There is nothing like being “stuck” in a car for a few hours to get in some good quality one-on-one time with nothing but miles and miles of green, gently sloping hills, a lot of soil and cattle.


After we checked into our hotel, we were ready for the first night of the rodeo!


We grabbed a quick dinner at a local Mexican restaurant, and the rain began to pour. It had been gray and cloudy all day, not ideal weather for our long-anticipated rodeo weekend. But, as we drove the 45 minutes to the town of Freedom, the sky really fell out. We were about 10 minutes out and hopelessly anticipating a cancellation of the whole event. However, the sky cleared up as we were pulling into the parking lot, and in spite of a few sporadic showers during the evening, the show went on! It was less crowded than a normal Friday night at the rodeo, according to the locals, but it was lovely just the same!


I thought Luke truly looked like a real cowboy; he looked ruggedly handsome, and we got compliments from a few of the very sweet hospitable residents of Freedom on what a cute couple we made!

We called it an early night after the rodeo since we were exhausted from traveling, and because the events did not start until noon the next day, we enjoyed sleeping in and a leisurely breakfast at the hotel before heading back to Freedom for the Chuckwagon Feed on the town square. You have to keep in mind that the Freedom Rodeo is entirely a volunteer event, and church ladies, local stores and even McDonald’s made it possible for every single person to enjoy lunch free of charge! The sense of tightknit community here was impossible to miss, and just like in days gone by, we could tell it is the kind of place where you never leave as a stranger!


During our brief stay, we met some of the kindest old ranch hands, business owners and rodeo fans. The Freedom Rodeo is considered part of the PBR circuit, so the clowns, commentators and many performers were professionals who come back year after year because it is their favorite rodeo to participate in!

After lunch, we enjoyed just exploring this tiny town! The charm of these buildings drew me in, and I could have taken pictures here for hours. Here were a few of my favorites:


“You plug ’em, we’ll plant ’em!” The undertaker’s sign truly cracked us up! While we waited under some much-needed shade for the Longhorn Steer Drive to begin on Main Street, a crusty old man in denim overalls approached us on the steps of the Post Office. He spent a few minutes describing days gone by; he has spent his entire life in Freedom, OK. Born and raised, he spent many a day ‘rebel rousing’ in these streets and hanging out at the Cimarron Saloon. He told us of his Pa’s many “punishments” including forcing him to eat raw meat and plow a field under the hot summer sun after he had one too many as a teen and was too sick to help with a pre-planned project. As he described his life between a piece of straw perched precariously between his teeth, leaning against the blue mail box, I could not help but think of what life must have been like here one century ago. Kids played in the street near the General Store, dressed in period clothing for a skit that would be performed later in the afternoon. “Saloon Girls” swarmed the street in front of the saloon, and the butcher stood slicing his meat under a small awning. With no modern amenities in sight, life seemed simpler for a moment, easier. More free.

The Longhorn Cattle Drive is one of the most eagerly anticipated events of the weekend. They bring this herd up from Texas, and it was over so quickly that I am very glad I snapped a few photos to truly appreciate the magnitude and sheer size of these Longhorns.

Next was the Bank Robbery and Shoot Out, a skit performed again by volunteers of the town! This was Luke’s favorite event of the weekend, and it was quite a sight to see. I was grateful for the complimentary ear plugs because rounds (even blank ones) are quite ear jolting.


At the end of the reenactment, Luke  I could not resist getting a photo with the Outlaws AND Sheriff’s deputies!


We had a few hours to kill before the evening’s rodeo activities began, so we decided to do a little exploring. We had heard talk that the Alabaster Caverns State Park was something to see, so we went down into the Cave for a brief tour. The coolness of the darkened cave felt heavenly compared to the hot Oklahoma sun that had been beating down on us all day. (Rain, Rain, Go Away!) It was nothing but clear blue skies the entire rest of the weekend!unnamed


The recommendations had been right–it was a sight to see! The guide had us experience “total darkness” for about two minutes, and I was shocked at how pitch black it actually became. You could not see your fingers in front of your nose!

We got in a much needed nap (Yep, we’re old folks now!) and headed back for the closing night’s festivities.


The Cimarron was illuminated by the most incredible orangey-red sunset; this photo truly does not do it justice. The skies out here are expansive and the sunrises and sunsets go for miles and miles.

Our last night at the rodeo was much more crowded than the first; it seemed like everyone for 50 miles was there to cheer on the local boys (and gals!) And, others, like us, had traveled much farther, some coming from Texas, Arizona, Kansas and Arkansas.


I didn’t quite know what to expect, but found myself enjoying the competition, the fast events, the clown’s antics. Laughs and good times were held by all, and even though only one rider qualified in the bull riding event, it was still quite an experience!

I was saddened to head back to Reality the next morning, but so grateful for the opportunity we had to get away from it all and spend one weekend together in Freedom.

Well, I am off to some adventures for THIS weekend, now. (Nothing quite so grand, but looking forward to some relaxation with the hubby.)


I’d Rather Fight With You (And Pick Up Your Dirty, Smelly Socks) Than Be With Anyone Else

One day early into our marriage, Luke and I were screaming at each other over something ridiculous after a heated “discussion,” and suddenly he looked at me and started laughing. “What’s so funny?” I fumed.

“Oh, nothing. I would just rather fight with you than be joyful with anyone else,” he replied.

I stopped for a moment pondering the utter craziness behind his statement and then realized he was right. We both started laughing at the idea that we both prefer to be “miserable” together as opposed to experiencing a moment of sheer bliss with anyone else.

When people say that love isn’t enough to make a marriage work, I say that they’re both right and wrong. Love is a driving force that can lead you to being loyally devoted to one another (and forgive your partner of wrongdoing much more easily), but it is also a lifelong commitment. It is a day in and day out decision to choose your love and your relationship over the temptations of this world, over the exhaustion and “Hangriness” that can occur after an exhausting day at work, and over anything else in your life. You must decide to love each and every day, and some days are easier than others.

Luke and I have had a tough few weeks here lately; between the two of us, we have been sick for almost a solid month with a sinus infection/flu type illness that one or both of us can’t seem to shake. When you’re not feeling well and naturally more cranky and irritable, your spouse is unfortunately the one who gets the brunt of it because you’re so caught up in “faking it till you make it” with the rest of the world. We’ve had unexpected car repairs and now a broken washing machine (when it rains, it pours) that caused some unanticipated financial strain with the upcoming holiday season. We’ve one or both had back-to-back weekend duties for the past month, leaving very little downtime together. And finally, we are in a major life transition as Luke has his promotion ceremony for Captain in 3 weeks and we navigate through what his new role in the Army might look like for our family.


With all of that, there have been some tense times, some less-than-kind words spoken by one or both of us, and we have both looked like the man in the picture a few times! Real marriage is not a fairytale story, and there are challenges and obstacles that even the best couples find themselves facing. The question is whether you are prepared to weather those storms together and remind yourself that you are in it for the long haul or give up when the going gets a little rocky.

What I know about life thus far is that it is cyclical; ups and downs, highs and lows, good seasons and bad. If you weather the storm, you get to enjoy the Rainbow on the other side. And, there is ALWAYS a rainbow. I am so proud of Luke for his promotion to Captain; a promotion that I (biased wife and all!) believe is extremely deserved. Luke worked more hours & long nights than almost any other Lieutenant I know and sacrificed a lot to get to this point in his career, and I could not be more thrilled for him. This is one of those Rainbows I was talking about.


This promotion is such a blessing for our family, and we are so excited that his parents and a couple of his Aunts and Uncles are coming out for the ceremony. Chick-fil-A is of course catering, and a couple of my “Chick-fil-A Family” are also coming out for the big event. We are very much looking forward to the day when I get to pin those two bars on him.

When I first met Luke, I joked that he was an equals sign because the symbol on his chest (the Cow West Point Cadet Rank) looked just like an equals sign with two lines stacked horizontally. We have now come full circle as those lines will flip vertically on October 14th.

The point is that marriage is a journey for a lifetime, and as a couple, you stick together–through richer through poorer, through sickness and in health, till death may us part. We have had all of those times thus far in our marriage; times of financial prosperity with unexpected bonuses and financial favor and times where the wallet was much thinner, where our spending far outpaced our earnings. We have had times where I literally wanted to throw all of his clothes out the window if he left them beside the hamper just ONE MORE TIME, and times when he wanted to break down the bathroom door because I was taking too long to get ready AGAIN. Are those minor annoyances going to break you or make you stronger? Today, I was walking down the hallway and saw Luke’s pair of PT socks, cast hastily to the side, with his shirt a few feet away in the guest bedroom. Instead of making a scene about it as I might have done a few years ago, I quietly picked them up and put them in the hamper for him. There are quirks he has to deal with about me too, and rather than try to constantly change the other one, we have learned to more or less “live with it.” One thing that we both consistently do is thank the other one for little chores around the house. We rotate who makes the bed because our work hours vary, so we never know who will be sleeping a little longer. Yet, it gets made about 90% of days with no argument at all. We actively thank each other for making the bed because we both enjoy coming home to a clean room. It is a nice easy way to show gratitude and to make the other feel loved and appreciated (fight free!)

A counselor we saw early in our marriage talked to us about finding our “non negotiables,”and he was not talking about big things. All couples have those annoyances they can easily tolerate, and those they just can’t stand. He told us that for him and his wife, it was wearing shoes in the house. He absolutely hated it, so rather than adapt his thinking, he asked for that to be one of their “non negotiables.” And his wife agreed, because it meant more to him to not wear the shoes than for her to wear them. Goodness, we had so many at the beginning! I had a “thing” about my couch; I wanted it to be extremely clean and I really didn’t like for us to eat on it, EVER (just ask my friend Jenae about some olive oil dipping sauce in 2013.) I hated when Luke used metal spatulas in my Teflon skillets because it scratched them. I hated that he folded the towels “backwards” and that he put the pillows differently on the bed if he made it. Meanwhile, he hated that I hung my keys on “his” key ring; he hated when I left the meat wrapped in Publix bags in the fridge so it wouldn’t drip. He hated that I wanted the temperature so high because I get cold easily, and he hated that I would leave countless water bottles by the bed in case I got thirsty at night. These are just a few examples, but we learned to compromise. The Great Lamp War of 2013 concluded with no official victor; I still love lamps and he still hates them. We have lamps all over the house, and if I turn one on, he doesn’t fight and if he happens to turn one off that I was using, I let it go. Compromise is a big part of a happy marriage.

But, it is also knowing that at the end of the day, your spouse has your back; he has seen you at your literal worst (morning breath, wild hair, mismatched pajamas and all!) and he has loved you through it. He/she has cared for you through the best and worst times in your life and knows you better than anyone else on Earth. You have endured all seasons together. And, at the end of the day, it is so very worth it to endure those tougher times, those days when as my old roommate used to put it, your “couple mojo” is just out of whack, and you can’t seem to get on the same page, because you are still together and loving one another through it. And, of course our biggest secret isn’t a secret at all. It’s Jesus Christ, front and center. As we both work toward improving our personal relationships with God through Bible study, constant prayer (even when we don’t feel like it,) and regular church attendance, our marriage also tends to improve. You have to each have that strong foundation of faith that you bring to your marriage; and a cord of three strands is not easily broken! We have actually missed church due to the aforementioned sickness the last couple of weeks, and I know that is not helping our marriage. We are so looking forward to getting back into Sunday School and church this coming Sunday and are actually planning to join Crossroads Baptist, a wonderful God-honoring church that we have already come to love in Elgin, OK. We are beyond excited to have a church home again that we can call our own and look forward to becoming more actively involved and serving here.


Well, that is just a little of where we are right now–just keeping it “real” today, friends. I pray that you all have a very blessed, relaxing weekend, whatever your plans may be. I have a big work event tonight (my first with Chick-fil-A), that I am both excited and nervous about. Luke works in the morning, and then I think we may hop on away to find some “us time” on a quiet local beach area, decompress and enjoy some R&R.

Thank you all as always for following our story and being part of our lives!



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