Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Man I Married

Thursday was my Love's birthday. He's twenty five now. A quarter of a century. Yikes. :-P

In so many ways he is younger than his age. He opened the birthday presents from his parents a day before his birthday because he was too excited to wait. And I watched, holding back laughter and filled with delight as his boyish grin grew bigger and bigger, finally exploding into an "O! WOW!" when he opened the Tebow Bronco's jersey from his Dad. He held it up to show me, then took of his shirt and put it on, too excited to wait.

Our marriage is full of many moments like that: Daniel being an excited little boy. I adore it. He laughs at himself, he impersonates everyone, he burrows into me and pretends to be upset/sad/depressed, just to get my undivided attention. He gets excited around puppies, about a new book or a phenomenal sermon by the pastor. He loves to make everyone laugh-- sometimes he will even plan new ways to do it-- like how he perfected his impersonations of Mare and Paul (my maternal grandparents) before our family vacation so that he could pretend to have conversations with them and make my brothers laugh. He has enough time to laugh himself into a frenzy at some stupid You Tube video, and absorb every mystery of Lost, and not feel guilty about sleeping in after a day of hard work. For a grown man with a mind far superior to most people I've met, his outlook on life is rather simple. He is not afraid to enjoy life. In fact, he does so with full enthusiasm.

I love and admire this about him. Too many people, myself included, take life way too seriously.

Yet his life is not wasted. Far from it! He reads about 1000 pages a week, listens to more sermons and lectures than I have time to keep track of, and still manages to maintain his scholarships and get through grad school for nearly nothing (and graduate on time, too!). He invests in the lives of those around him, including mine. He loves the local church, and the church invisible, too.

My husband is wise. His mind is always working. Someone told him that his mind moves faster than a racehorse. It's true. This works to his advantage and his detriment. He has learned to balance this so well in the last several months!

My husband grows. He improves. He changes. And he is not embarrassed to admit it. He is not the same person I met two years ago. He has let God work in his life and challenge and strengthen him.

He opens the car door for me every time. If I don't get up immediately to clean up the kitchen after dinner, he will do it instead. He compliments my cooking, and tries to find some way to enjoy it, even when its something he doesn't particularly like. He knows when to listen and stay silent; and he knows when to talk, and how-- whether its a word of encouragement, correction, or a solution to a problem.

He is learning the art of husbandry. He is learning it well.

My husband is a visionary. This is one of the things that made me fall in love with him. I have watched his vision continue to be realized. I have loved to be able to be included in the execution of this vision, and to find that he thinks now not of it as his vision, but ours.

My husband has a temper that is so controlled it humbles me. He will not waste his frustration on worthless things. However, when he witnessed a liberal church he visited sending its own children to Sunday School to learn that they could define their own reality, and determine truth for themselves without the help of Scripture his blood boiled over, and had he not been required to stay for a class credit would have walked out indignantly.

He loves children. Some people don't know this. When he first met my siblings his interaction with them was a little awkward, but never did he not want to play and be with them. Now, being with them is second nature. One of the first things I remember him telling me was how he hoped to have a large family himself, and even wanted to adopt several children. We still hope for those things.

Every day I spend with him I know I am blessed.

But what I love most about my husband is that when I look at him I can see all that he is now, his faults, and all his strengths, but I also see all that he will be, I see what the Lord is making him.  That humbles me-- it cripples me if I think of it without the Lord as my strength-- and it also overwhelms me with thankfulness.

Because my husband is an excellent man.

Daniel Wells, you are my hero. Happy Birthday.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Family vacation was great! It was wonderful to be with my whole family again-- all 13 of us. We met in McGaheysville, Virginia as a resort there called Massanuten, each coming from different parts of 3 different states. Dad is up working in Michigan, and until the house sells the rest of the gang is down in Medina; Peter and Angela came from Cleveland; and of course, we drove up from Charlotte. There was lots to do every day, and we certainly used up all the time well! But why use words to tell you all about it? Pictures are so much better:

Swimming!... and diving/flipping/belly-flopping, too!

Noah flippin' 'round
Nevin was our master belly-flopper-- but of course a guy as cool as Nev doesn't do silly things like belly flops on accident. He purposely did six in a row "because then I'm the most popular guy in the diving board line!" :-P
We attempted tennis one evening

We made a 3 hour hike to Williamsburg, for a day at Busch Gardens
The first ride we came to was in Scotland. Anna was so tired that she couldn't even smile for the camera.
We got worried near the end that she would actually fall asleep and fall off!
'Liza and Sis
The Goliath of the coasters-- the Griffon -- over 205 feet in the air, this ride takes you the to top and suspends its riders in the air before dropping a straight 90 degrees at speeds over 70 mph. Only a few in our group wanted to try this one!
(This is what the picture we could have paid $30 for looked like)
Cotton Candy! A Willeke favorite and must-have at any amusement park.
Land of the Dragons was a nice break for the little kiddos. They got to climb around, ride some kiddie rides and slide down super slick slides.

....then the rain hit, and we found a hide-out in a artsy shop in Italy, where we all admired and tried out the $100 dollar masks. :)

Nevin and Angela won the award for "creepiest looking eyes underneath a mask"
Wednesday evening we enjoyed a Murder Mystery Dinner
crab legs were on the menu. I *heard* they were good-- except Dad did say he thought he might starve before he could get enough meat out to satisfy his appetite. :) That's why they also served chicken Alfredo, prime rib and other sides. (It also helped people like me who try to stay away from things with creeping red legs four times bigger than their bodies.... seriously, is that not scary? Poor Anna thought they were alligators.) We did all learn that we should probably not go into the detective field without professional experience, since the accused murderer was a suspect we never even considered. We're all still convinced he was actually framed by his jealous ex-fiancee cheerleading drama queen, who murdered his life's hero to take revenge on all the years she spent being second in his life! .... our story was much better than the written one.
Aliza and Mommy.

Thursday we splashed away the day at Massanutten's water park.
I have such a charming brother-in-law <3
Noah-- I think he gained ten pounds of muscle and grew two inches in two months. He's officially bigger than all the girls, and even taller than Dad. He's set a Willeke record for height at only 13-- 5 feet 6 inches. :-P
The Lazy River was really a hit for everyone.
Sunshine on my Sunshine
makes me laugh :)
Slides were a big hit too-- There were two body slides, and 3 tube slides as well as half a dozen others in the splash zone.
Dad liked them too!

What could make a better afternoon snack than Dippin' Dots? Which Daniel faithfully reminds us has been the ice cream of the future for the last 10 years. :)

We even managed to get a family photo at Busch Gardens-- a rarity in our family history.

Ashlee and Daniel, Peter and Angela, Anna, Nathan, Nevin, Aliza, Noah, Nolan, Mom, Dad, and Nicholas-- imagine what our numbers will be in 10 years, with grandchildren, and hopefully a couple of sisters-in-law!

We wrapped up the week with a trip to Virginia Beach Saturday afternoon. We picniced on our towels, and then jumped waves for nearly two hours.

Daniel body surfing... he turned into a little boy in the ocean, making up his own competition to see how far toward the beach he could go with each wave. :) I loved watching him.

This week things start full swing. The two months of easy life we've had since the wedding are over. I started work Monday, Daniel starts classes Wednesday, and begins tutoring the following week. Our days are packed, and after a fun, relaxing vacation it feels good to be busy and productive.

Friday, August 13, 2010

A week with the girlies!

We've had my two littlest sisters here in Charlotte for the last week. They'll leave here when we all head up to Virginia for our family vacation after church on Sunday.

This week has been wonderful. We had some rough spots initially, getting two very small girls comfortable in a strange house without their Mommy, but we've had so much fun, that even when they do cry for Mom (who would not miss Mommy? I still do.) I can remind them of how happy I am that they're here, how we'll see her soon, and remind them of how much fun we're having to stop the tears.

It's been go, go, go since Day 1 though. I've finally gotten a tan for the summer, after spending at least 2 hours in the pool every day for the last week.

The Puppy Store

 I bought this game at a resale store here in Charlotte for a couple of bucks. Turned out to be quite a hit.

Painted pictures, and plaster magnets.

LOTS of swimming. Aliza amazes me. She is a fish. Anna is cautious, but excited.

We've been to a several different playgrounds-- all a hit.

Aliza is too busy running around and making friends when we're at the playground for me to really get her picture. Anna, on the other hand, runs from place to place calling, "Here Ash, come take my picture here!"

Thursday evening when we finally made it back to Charlotte, the girls were very interested in the neighborhood we live in. Anna asked, "What's this?" I said, "A neighborhood. It's where we live. There are a bunch of houses and apartments all together." "Why?"  (imagine living on 6.5 acres your whole life, being used to the closest public place being the gas station 3 miles down the road, and the nearest neighbor a whole big yard away and you have entered Anna's world) "Because that's how some people live." They were still fascinated, and I got questions about "neighborhoods" for several days afterwards. Aliza figured out almost immediately though that a neighborhood meant an ice cream truck, and kept her ears open for the jingle. He finally came one evening. They were thrilled.

Notice her outfit in the picture above. She's wearing a blouse we found the previous day at Goodwill and a "matching" scarf. She is wearing my flower headband, and then has some of the flowers I wore in my hair at the wedding pinned under the headband, too.  She loves and appreciates anything special and beautiful. She was decked out to the nines, and looked priceless. :) 
Daniel and I have both been floored by her maturity. She has grown into a beautiful young girl in the last couple of months. She is reasonable, she is sweet; she likes to please and is a wonderful helper. She encourages her little sister to be good, and is ever so nurturing. She's bright, too. And one afternoon when she was being grumpy (because she still is human after all) I told her that when we complain it displeases the Lord, and if we love Him we will want to please him, not make Him sad. Then I asked her if she loved Jesus. She nodded yes very quickly, and walked away to dry it up. So precious.

We made cookies of course!

We spent one long, hot afternoon at the library, reading books, playing with the toys, and making these cool picture frames.

They covered these glasses with pieces of tissue paper to make candle holders for Mom's birthday at the beginning of next month. They're really cute, and I love the glow they get when light shines through them. I'm thinking I'll cover some glass bottles and decorate near some of the windows in the house.

This evening we went on a picnic. I've been aching to use this cool picnic basket and blanket my good friend Ashley (and family) gave me as a shower gift, but haven't had the chance. The girls being here provided and extra-special opportunity. (Aliza stuck her napkin in her bottle to keep the bugs out.)

I've had nicknames for them since they were babies. Aliza is my Poppet. Poppet is an English term of endearment for a special, small female, but the way the word sounds also makes me think of Aliza: spicy, rapidly changing, adorable. Anna I've called Sunshine for as long as I can remember. Unlike Aliza she was a quiet, smiley baby (Aliza cried a lot, from what I can remember anyway), she was our Sunshine. This name has become even more fitting as she has grown, too. She even looks awesome in yellow!

For our picnic dinner the girls and I made Ranch chicken calzones. They were de-lish. Super easy too. 
1. Just made some pizza dough
2. Cut it into six squares.
3. Coat with sauce (more than you think you need), stuff with meat and cheese (or whatever)
4. Fold in half and press the edges with a fork. 
5. Bake as you would the pizza.


Having the girls here this week has truly been wonderful. It's been different that what we're used to of course, and I was convicted early this week that since the wedding I had grown even more selfish than before, and with the girls here, I was painfully realizing it. They were crunching my style sometimes. They were making me tired. There is a lot of invest when you are caring for two young ones, especially when they are far from home and missing their parents and brothers, and you are trying to make their time with you exciting every moment. The Holy Spirit reminded me that to die to self was to live in Christ, and by investing myself in these girls now, I could, Lord willing, be planting seeds of Christ's love in them now. I wanted them to see Jesus in me-- not me in me!

Daniel and I have also realized how much we love children, and have watched that love grow all week-- love for Aliza and Anna, and love for all children. This week has made us eager for the time when, Lord willing, God will bless us with our own. We're excited not just to have them, but to train them. Daniel has really enjoyed spending time with the girls and learning more about each of them, and how they are different-- some "rules" about children just aren't universal! These experiences make us excited to see what personalities our children have, and what challenges we'll face as parents.

We've also learned this week to work more as a team. We've learned to communicate without ever speaking. A couple of days left me totally exhausted. I would pull on my pajamas, splash water on my face and stumble back downstairs to clean up what I had left as a dirty kitchen, only to find it clean and neat. We've been able to help and serve one another more this week than we usually are able-- actually, Daniel has been doing most of the serving. He has amazed me-- not because I never thought him capable of what he's done, but because he just continues to get that much more wonderful.

Ain't he handsome?? (Aliza told me she thinks so :))

We've got two more days, and a half to go. Tomorrow will be another pool day, and mostly just relaxing and packing for our family vacation next week. Saturday we're taking them to a wedding with us, which should be lots of fun. :) I can't wait to dress them up.

One last thought before I sign out. I've been pondering over this all week:

Am I running towards eternity with Jesus with all that I've got? Am I pressing on toward that heavenly goal to win Him as the prize? Do I adore Jesus as much as Mary Magdalene, a outcast prostitute who fell on her knees and wet his feet with her tears? That same Mary who was blessed to be the first person to witness the resurrected Christ, who had Him call out her very own name? Am I running to Jesus because He's everything to me? Because He's all that matters? Because He is the great I AM?