The most amazing love story since Romeo and Juliet haha

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Sunday evening ramblings…Counting our blessings!

Luke and I just finished our Love & Respect Experience weekly Bible study, and now he is off to bed with a headache, leaving me in the mood to blog for a few minutes before going to sleep myself! Our Bible study tonight was about remaining thankful to the Lord for His blessings despite any negative circumstances in our lives (both as a couple, and as individuals.) In fact, it even suggested that we THANK God for everything, INCLUDING the obstacles and challenges in our lives. This really resonated with me tonight, as this past year has been full of changes for Luke and I. We have certainly grown stronger as a couple in the Lord, but we have had our fair share of struggles as well! Looking back, it is amazing to see how far we have come.

– 1 year ago, my mom had just filed for divorce after 25 years of marriage to my dad. Even though my brother and I knew it was coming, it was still a bit of a struggle to see our family ripping apart at the seams. The divorce proceedings are still ongoing today, but looking back…WOW! Luke and I have made it through some pretty tough stuff and never broke as a couple or lost our faith in God. Luke was there for me every step of the way and continues to comfort me and support me to this day. We both have relied heavily on the Lord to make it through. So why would we ever not be thankful for the blessings in life or be fearful that God can’t or won’t see us through till the end? He has already proven His never-ending faithfulness, even in the face of this struggle.

– 1 year ago, Luke and I had no idea what his branch in the Army would be after he graduated from West Point, and we had no idea what post he would end up going to. He could have ended up in Germany, Korea, Hawaii, Texas, New York, Washington…really anywhere. And yet, the Lord worked it out just perfectly for us so that Luke would get his first choice of Fort Benning, Georgia! It is still hard to believe he will be living only three hours away from me before the year is out!

– 1 year ago, I was struggling to decide what career path I wanted to take and had no idea what I wanted to do when I graduate in May of 2013! After lots of prayers and discussions with trusted mentors and advisers (including Luke, my most trusted human adviser and best friend,) I have decided what I want to do with my life! I want to write, and I want to teach! I hope to eventually become a college communications professor so that I can fulfill both of my passions! In the meantime, I plan to pursue a master’s degree after graduation and work in education or in communication, depending on the job opportunities that I may come across, before pursuing my doctorate degree.

– 1 year ago, I could not legally consume alcohol. I had never seen the Empire State Building, the Metropolitan Museum of Art or eaten a hotdog in Central Park. I had never been to an Iron Bowl at Auburn University, seen Charleston, or gotten a promise ring from my beloved.

– 1 year ago, l had also not yet been hired as a student worker at Business Executive magazine (the Culverhouse College magazine for business school alumni), been elected president of The Society of Professional Journalists’ student chapter or been named editor-in-chief of Alpine Living, an international travel magazine through the UA journalism department.

– 1 year ago, Luke was just a firstie at USMA. He was griping about his numerous classes and being charged with safety/admin duties for the Corps of Cadets. He was using Pro Model, the program that I think he hates the most of any engineering programs. He still had a “curfew” and mandatory breakfast, which he didn’t eat, and was required to drill every day or two. He had not yet taken and passed the FE (professional engineering exam), received some really awesome 22nd birthday presents, including a roll of toilet paper with Duke University’s logo printed all over it, or graduated from the Academy.

This was Luke and I one year ago:

UA v. Vanderbilt- 2011

Tuscaloosa Fair 2011

The Cypress Inn, Tuscaloosa, Fall 2011

We had some really, really great times back then, and I wouldn’t change them for the world, but I am really looking forward to see what God will do in our lives  in the upcoming 8 months before I am officially a college graduate! I know that He has an amazing plan for our lives, and I am confident that He will never let us falter. So, even though life gets tough sometimes and challenges come our way, I can remain secure in the knowledge that He will carry us through.

The Bible study lesson suggested that we make a list of the things we are grateful for, and here is just a short (and incomplete) summary of some of the the blessings in our lives:

  • God’s Son who died on the cross to save us from a plethora of sins.
  • The gift of each other and our unconditional love, even in the midst of challenges.
  • Our family members, and the support and love that we often find from them.
  • Our friends, who continue to laugh with us, love us and support us no matter what circumstances life throws our way.
  • Luke’s job as an officer in the U.S. Army, and my opportunity to pursue higher education at The University of Alabama.
  • The long distance, which has allowed us to grow closer together spiritually and emotionally during these past 2 1/3 years.
  • Having enough food to eat and a safe place to sleep at night.
  • The multitude of private struggles that we have both encountered throughout our relationship and the perseverance and strength that God has blessed us with to overcome each and every one of them.
  • The uncertainty of what lies ahead in our future, because it allows us to rely on God and His perfect plan to carry us through.

“In everything, give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:18


West Point graduation and summer leave

Well a LOT has happened since I last blogged. I am not the best at keeping up-to-date in the huge, wide world of blogging, but at least my habitual procrastination allows me to post a mega update on the life of Luke and I. So it is July 2, obviously, and Luke has graduated from West Point and is now serving as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army. I would be remiss if I did not post some pictures from USMA Grad Week, so see below.

Friday was the graduation parade, where all of the cadets marched onto the parade field, and then the graduating class of 2012 symbolically separated from the Corps of Cadets. After the parade, we had a photo shoot with the famous Jill Knight!

Group picture! From L to R: Uncle Tom, Aunt Brenda, Kevin Bradshaw (Luke’s dad), Samuel Bradshaw (brother), Amanda Sams, Luke Bradshaw, Sally Bradshaw (his mom), Aunt Susie, Aunt Mary and Milos
Photo Credit: Jill Knight (

This is one of my favorite pictures of Luke and I while he is wearing his cadet uniform.
Photo Credit: Jill Knight (

Photo Credit: Jill Knight (

That night was our last West Point formal banquet. Such a bittersweet time.

After a very late night, we got up early the next morning and were in the stadium by 7 a.m. for the graduation ceremony itself. Despite an extremely hot day, there was nowhere else in the world I would have rather been. I know that we will remember this day for the rest of our lives.

A few hours later, he was officially commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Army. Colonel Crowe (Luke’s mentor in high school) flew all the way up from North Carolina to perform the commissioning ceremony. It took place  in front of the George Washington statue at West Point.

His mom and I pinning the “butter bars” on his uniform!

It’s official! Luke Bradshaw is an officer, and I have never been so proud to be his girl.

And then the rain came pouring down, so his first picture as a 2Lt was taken quickly when he was already soaked, but I still think he looks very handsome.

After graduation, we took a little road trip down to Annapolis, Maryland to watch Luke’s childhood best friend, Jon Teague, graduate from the United States Naval Academy. We really enjoyed spending time with Jon and his girlfriend, Laura.

We then headed to Hickory, NC to see Luke’s parents for a few days. After a short stint in Indianapolis for a leadership conference, I went back to work in Huntsville, and Luke joined me a few days later for our two-year anniversary of dating.  We went to Connor’s Steak and Seafood at Bridge Street and then went to see the movie ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting’ with Cameron Diaz (such a funny movie!). It was a pretty great date, since our first date ever on June 5, 2010 was actually dinner and a movie at Bridge Street.

He has been spending the rest of his summer leave with me at my parents’ house, and we have had many adventures in our month together including (but not limited to): meeting two of our best friends, Will and Jess, at this cute French restaurant in Birmingham, going to a wedding celebration BBQ for friends from work, cooking together, eating Mexican several times (yay for me!! Not so exciting for him), and spending a weekend in Gulf Shores with Will and Jess. Luke actually got the worst sunburn of his life during this trip, but it was wonderful, just the same.

We have also fit in a week at Edgewater Beach Resort in Panama City Beach, a birthday celebration dinner for my younger brother, Ethan and a surprise visit up to Hickory, NC to see Luke’s parents again. (Pictures to come later!)

We have three days left until he has to leave for Fort Sill, Oklahoma to begin BOLC (basic officer’s training). We are planning to make the most of these next few days, including a date tonight (You guessed it: I want Mexican again lol) and a 4th of July celebration. I am off of work all day on the 4th, so we will get to spend the entire day (and Luke’s favorite holiday) together. It has been so fun to be a “normal” couple for this past month, and I know it is not a month I will soon forget.

More later.


To some of you, the amount of exclamation points following the sweetest name in the world to me right now may seem a bit excessive. But when we found out Luke got Fort Benning, Georgia at Post Night last Thursday, I wanted to leap in the air from joy! I wanted to shoot off fireworks or scream from the ledge of a cliff just to express to the world how excited I am that this LONG DISTANCE relationship from Alabama to New York is taking a change of course for the better. Instead, I sat in my seat and screamed silently inside, thanking God for this amazing opportunity to be only THREE hours apart instead of 17! That’s not even a plane flight!!

Of course my camera inconveniently died on Post Night, so the pictures I am posting below are thanks to a couple of really sweet USMA girlfriends who were nice enough to capture our moment of joy.

Haha he is daring the guys in front of him to even think about choosing one of the 2 Benning slots!

Luke and I holding up his Fort Benning poster! We were so happy.

This is probably a very small triumph in the grand scheme of things, but it certainly triggered the mood for the rest of our amazing weekend together in New York. After 4 1/2 weeks apart we were more than ready to be together again, even if only for a weekend, and to know that in 9 short months we will be within DRIVING DISTANCE of each other was really exciting news. BENNING!!!! Haha ok I am done….Moving on….

Post Night was Thursday, and Friday night was St. Barbara’s a “ball” for all of the Field Artillery officers/firsties and their dates. It was held at the Officers’ Club at West Point, which I had never been to before. All of the guys or “red legs” wore their red socks with their dress gray uniforms, and everything looked so nice. I loved meeting some of the other guys in his branch.

In his room, getting ready to go!

At our table! I really liked this picture of us :

One more! We had such an amazing time!

As part of Field Artillery tradition, all of the cadets were asked to try a secret recipe of “grog” (haha basically a bunch of alcohol mixed together in a large pot!) Luke and his friends dutifully downed a cup of the stuff, but their faces are priceless.

The “aftershock” from the grog!

St. Barbara’s was a lot of fun! The next day, Saturday, Luke took me ice skating on Bear Mountain and then to dinner and a movie at the Palisades Mall. Ice skating outdoors in New York around sunset was absolutely awesome! He did really well planning the perfect romantic date :]

Ice skating on Bear Mountain with my favorite guy

We were proud of ourselves for not falling down at all..although there were a few close calls…

All in all, we had an awesome weekend together! And we have a very short countdown this time…Only one more week until we reunite for President’s Day weekend..He gets 4 days off from West Point, so he is coming down to see me in Tuscaloosa next Thursday night..I know we will have another fun filled weekend, with our delayed Valentine’s Day celebration as well as an overnight visit from two of our best friends, Jessica and Will.

7 days….! (and a little less than 9 months until….BENNNINNGG!!!)

Back to Reality…

Christmas Break is over, and I have no idea where the last 2 weeks went. All that I know is I am back at my parents’ house in Huntsville, Ala., and Luke is really far away at West Point settling in for another semester (albeit his last!) We had an amazing vacation together though, and we definitely made some great memories.

It was fun to just be a normal couple for once: cooking dinner together at night, and cuddling in front of the TV in the evenings. We got to set up the Christmas tree together at my house, and we double dated some with my brother and his girlfriend, which was a lot of fun. Every day Luke got up early to make my family breakfast, and every day we got to decide what to do for my lunch break at work and what to do for dinner. We developed something of a routine, that I am missing right now.

He came down to visit for the first half of the break, which extended through Christmas. We enjoyed celebrating with my family this year!

Luke and I with our gifts to each other! I made him the Atlanta Braves blanket

Our pretty tree

Then we went to his house for New Year’s in North Carolina. We had a great time up there! We got to see his 91-year-old grandmother and stay the night with her one night, and  once again it was like we were just a normal couple (with neither of us having to go to work!) We got to spend 24 hours a day together up there, and I think we made the most of it. We had several dinners with his parents, brothers and grandma, and built a bonfire one night. We rang in the new year with sparkling grape juice.

Last night, Luke decided to do something extra special for me since it was our last night together. In the afternoon he gave me a single orangey pink rose. He said it was specially made and the florist had to dye and freeze it to make it look that way. I promptly broke it of course (accidentally), and he pulled another one out and handed it to me! Haha it made me laugh that he was so prepared and knows me so well. That night after dinner, we looked at his old family photo albums for an hour or two, and then when everyone went to sleep, he poured us glasses of wine and lit the fireplace and some candles in the living room. We danced for about a half hour, and it was so sweet that he was being so romantic for me. It was the perfect way to end the break (if it had to end at all..which apparently it did. Since I am here and he is there).

I miss him already, but he has promised to call me tonight, and we may get to see each other in just 2 short weeks for Martin Luther King Jr. weekend. We both get a three-day weekend, so we may go back to NC to visit his family again. His grandma really isn’t doing so well, so we’d like to spend some more time with her. If he can’t get a pass that weekend though, I will still get to see him soon in just 4 weeks. I am flying up there for his Post Night and St. Barbara’s Ball, which is held for all of the Field Artillery guys. In the meantime, dress shopping!! I need something pretty, red and expensive. :]

More soon.

It’s almost Christmas!

It’s finally Christmas break, and everything has been extremely busy to say the least, since I last wrote. Luke and I completed our final exams of the semester, and I made A’s in all of my classes, so I was really happy. He won’t find out his grades until he goes back to West Point, since he forgot his computer with the CAC reader in it and cant access the site. Now, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…And we are together at long last 🙂 He arrived in Huntsville Saturday morning, and he is staying with my family until the day after Christmas, and then I am going to visit his in North Carolina for New Years!  We scheduled the trips so we only have to spend 2 1/2 days apart over the break, which we are super excited about! On Saturday, we went toLynchburg, TN, with our friends Jessica and Will. We ate at Miss Mary Bo Bo’s Boarding House and took a tour of the Jack Daniels Distillery. Lynchburg is such a quaint little town, and we had a great afternoon just wandering around and stopping in some of the shops.

That evening, we made dinner at my house and just hung out and watched Miracle on 34th Street (which is an awesome Christmas movie, in my opinion!) It was so wonderful just to be together again. On Sunday, we went to church with my mom. Then that night, we all went to see the Living Christmas Tree, an annual musical performance at First Baptist Huntsville, featuring singers that stand inside a Christmas tree covered in 13,000 glowing lights. It was pretty neat.

On Monday morning, I had to start work (unfortunately) at USASMDC in the Public Affairs division. They let me come back for the summers and Christmas break, so I work here Monday-Friday from 8am-4:30p.m. It’s not a bad job at all, and it’s how Luke and I met after all, but I really miss spending the days with him during the precious little time we get to spend together in the same state. We are making the best of it though! He drives me to work in the morning and runs errands or hangs out with my family during the day. He always meets me for lunch and picks me up after work too, which is nice.

We live for the nights when I am off, and we have certainly been making the most of them! We have cooked for my family every night this week, which I really enjoy (and he begrudgingly helps me with haha jk). Monday night was my favorite, I think because we got to set up our Christmas tree at home and decorate the house. We also made fried chicken and mashed potatoes, which is one of my favorite meals. Then we played Spades with my younger brother, Ethan, and his girlfriend, Hannah. Tuesday night we shot basketball for a while with my dad, made spaghetti for dinner, and then played Monopoly with my mom, Ethan and Hannah. And last night, we made tacos and went bowling with Ethan and Hannah.

We have been spending a lot of quality time with my family, so I think everyone is really starting to bond. Tonight we are getting a photo shoot done so we can give his mom the pictures for her Christmas gift. If they turn out well, I will post one on here as well. After the photo shoot, I think we will probably just have a relaxing night and watch a Christmas movie or shoot some pool. And on Friday, he has promised me a date–dinner at the Melting Pot and a movie, I believe. We are going to Bridgestreet in Huntsville, which I’m excited about because that’s where our first date was. Dinner and a movie to be exact, although the dinner was at an Italian restaurant that has since closed. I’m excited about getting a little alone time with him. 🙂 So while things have been super busy, and I am absolutely exhausted at work this morning, it has been a blast. And the break isn’t even halfway over yet! I can’t wait to see what this next week has in store for us. I am finding myself falling in love with him all over again, every single day, and even with work and everything else, I would not change a thing about the holidays so far.

 “Love is the greatest refreshment in life.” – Pablo Picasso   

Our beginning…to now! A condensed version :]

Celebrating Luke’s branch with our Field Artillery pose! “Boom, Boom!”

Welcome to the crazy, chaotic but amazingly wonderful life of Luke and Manda (written by Manda and read by Luke). Since this is my first post, I will tell you a little about us and where we are at this very moment in our lives.
I am a junior at the University of Alabama, majoring in journalism. I plan to go on to get a master’s degree in education and teach secondary Egnlish/language arts at the high school level for a few years before obtaining a PhD and becoming a college professor. Luke is a senior or “firstie” at the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York. After he graduates on May 26,2012, he will be commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army. As you see in the picture above, he recently found out on Dec. 2nd that his branch will be Field Artillery! I was so proud of him for getting his first choice for branch, and we can’t wait to see what the future has in store for us during his Army career.

Anyway, Luke and I met in the summer of 2010 at U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command, located on Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama. As a native of Huntsville, I have worked at USASMDC as a summer intern for the past five summers, writing feature stories and technical fact sheets for their Public Affairs Division. West Point sent Luke down to SMDC for a three-week internship in engineering, since he is a systems engineering major at the very beginning of that summer. We  met, talked non-stop for 40 hours a week (neither of us got much work done! haha), went on a few dates and began to fall in love. I was only 19 years old when we met, and it seems incredible that we found each other and have made it work as well as we have (although I must admit, he has been the glue that has held us together many times.) I consider myself to be an extremely lucky girl to have a man like him to love.

After that three-week time period at SMDC, Luke had to go back to New York to supervise Beast for the new cadets at West Point. That lasted six weeks, and we weren’t able to talk much during that time because he was very busy and spent a good bit of time in the field. He came back to see me for a weekend during his summer leave after Beast though, and we knew we wanted to make it work, even from thousands of miles apart. And so we began what has been the greatest l0ng distance relationship of my life.

Long distance isn’t easy by any stretch of the imagination, but when you love someone the way we love each other, the kind of love that awakens the soul and makes you feel more alive than you have ever felt in your entire lives combined, we have found it can work (And work amazingly, I might add!) We have had many adventures together throughout our relationship so far, and I can say, we have both traveled a fair amount. He is from Hickory, North Carolina, so even over the upcoming Christmas Break, we will be traveling between Huntsville, AL and Hickory to visit both of our sets of parents. We have spent time together in Huntsville, Ala; Tuscaloosa, Ala; Auburn, Ala; Hickory, North Carolina; Raleigh, North Carolina; New York, New York; West Point, New York; Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; Gatlinburg, Tenn; the Bahamas (a cruise this last summer) and one ill-fated trip for our one-year anniversary to Jackson, Mississippi. Lol I guess you could say we are becoming somewhat experienced at traveling. (Since we started dating, I have learned to pack so concisely that I don’t have to check a bag, which is somewhat of a miracle for me!)

Our next stop? Lawton, Oklahoma, well Luke will go to complete his BOLC training next Fall for Field Artillery. That will last about four to five months, which is shorter than what some branches have to do, so I guess we are lucky there. After that, he will have to report to his first post location (which as of now is still up in the air, much to my dismay, until Post Night on Feb. 2nd!) We are crossing our fingers to get somewhere in the South so we can be closer together while I finish my last semester of college and begin graduate school.

I can’t wait to see him again in just three short days for Christmas Break, where we will have almost two whole weeks to spend time together! This is extremely exciting for us, as we are always living for the weekends when we can be together.  We were fortunate to see each other seven times over this past semester, which is really good, considering how far apart we live. Our last visit was actually only two weeks ago! I flew up to New York to surprise him for our 1 1/2 year anniversary and branch night! We had a blast celebrating with a chocolate and seafood buffet for dinner on Friday night at the Thayer Hotel and a champagne brunch at the same location on Sunday. We spent a lot of time on post, which was nice because I finally got the grand tour. (We usually spend our New York weekends in the city, sight seeing). Here is a picture from our Sunday brunch:

Posing in front of the Christmas tree in the Thayer Hotel

Hopefully, I will have many more updates over the Christmas holidays. But just in case I don’t find time to write on here between now and when Santa Claus comes to visit, Merry Christmas everyone!

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