Weekend Wandering: Up North 2016

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Happy Monday and first day of August!

I have to share a bit from our mini getaway this past weekend. It was our annual trip to the Leelanau/Traverse City area. We’ve gone up there the last three years at least once and every time we go, it gets better. This time we learned a couple more things and found some new favorites. I want to go back so badly (I’m already scouting out beautiful Airbnb rentals in the area).

We combined this trip with a reunion with some of our best friends after a year apart. It felt extra special to be on a beautiful vacation with people we really like. We spent a bit too much time in the car and in tacky shops, but since we never stopped chatting, even those less exciting parts of the trip were great.

We enjoyed some of the best beach days I’ve ever had on Lake Michigan and watched 3 stunning sunsets. Some of my favorite times were our meals on the enclosed porch overlooking the lake. I’ll share the cutest spots we discovered later, in case you want to plan your own trip and so I don’t forget for next year’s trip.

Life is good when you’re Up North with friends.

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Yellow House Adventures: Kitchen Reveal

Oh hey, remember when I talked about updating our kitchen?

Well, it’s been done since Easter and I just never got around to taking pictures. Anyway, I finally remembered to do it and I can’t wait for you to see how great it looks. We didn’t change any of the layout or functions, so I’ve haven’t had any adjustment in that sense. I’d gotten so used to how nice it all is, that I was shocked how bad it was when looking back at pictures. The kitchen was the last room to get a makeover because I really didn’t think it was that bad and really it was Dave’s idea to do anything to it. But now I can’t believe what a difference a couple coats of paint, a new countertop/sink and white appliances can make.

I fall in love with this little house all over again every time I take a step back and realize how cute it really is.

To summarize the work we (Dave and a friend did most of the real work) did, I’ll list it here before you see the amazing results:

  • Paint Cabinets
  • New Countertop
  • New Sink and Faucet
  • Backsplash
  • Valances
  • Coat Rack
  • New (to us)  Stove
  • New (to us) Fridge
  • New Light Fixture
  • New Range Hood
  • Magnetic Knife Board
  • Extra Surface between Fridge and Range (This is amazing, it added 30% more counter space and filled a really awkward gap in the kitchen.)

Starting off with a couple before/after shots:

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And here are shots of just about every angle of the room:

 

The Evolution of a Vision

It’s no secret that Dave-man and I love a good adventure in the great outdoors. In fact I fell for him in the woods of Northern Michigan (full story here). Our wedding was always going to reflect our love for the outdoors and nature and my passion of crafting and handmade items.

When I started to imagine our wedding I saw lots of snow, sparkly stars, wool blankets, and cozy details. I thought a winter wedding would be perfect. Something along these lines:

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Once we realized our wedding date would be May 16… well all the visions of cozy sweaters and snowflakes were out of the question.

I played around with colors and textures. I considered the venue we had: a pretty average church building and gym. Everything came together into a vision that looked something like this:

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We planned and crafted and honestly once we got going I totally forgot I had created this little inspiration board. I was looking through our wedding pictures after we got them last week and I suddenly thought back to those early planning stages and realized we totally nailed it. Not only did we set a goal and hit it, I think it all turned out even more perfect that I could have imagined. I took that inspiration board and inserted the actual pictures from our wedding:

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I had to add a brown color swatch because we used much more burlap and brown than I first thought we would. But every other element either is spot on or even better than our inspiration.

Here is the icing on the cake of evolution of our vision for this day. We didn’t plan it in any way, but we happened upon a little path going through some woods during our couple portraits and our amazing photographer snapped this:

View More: http://sallyodonnellphotography.pass.us/esther-and-davidson

Doesn’t it just personify woodsy fairy tale to you? And that was our goal all along.

Wedding photos: Sally O’Donnell Photography

We were both young when I first saw you… (epilogue)

Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4 and Part 5. Finally wrapping up this long winded series with an epilogue just in time for Valentines Day.

ourstory

We’ve spent the last year investing in our new community and enjoying adventures together. Dave-Man and I operate from such a foundation of trust that things that used to cause issues don’t anymore because we both understand and forgive much easier when we’re confident of the other’s love. And while it’s painful to remember the bad parts, the love we have for each other is so much sweeter now. Sometimes it’s difficult not to be married after going through so much with each other, we feel such a strong and deep bond. But we trust the God’s plan is perfect and good and in his timing things will work out and he will continue leading us.

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Our story is one of many mistakes getting in the way of love. But like everything else in life, Christ redeemed our story and in the same way he saved us individually and made our lives new, he saved our relationship and made it new.10376041_10152462933324770_1115335881098728898_n

We’ve been together 2 and a half years. Those kids on the beach in the UP feel like a lifetime away. We know life has many more joys and struggles in store for us and I pray that we may remember our one true and secure hope in this life through every step of the way.

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As we prepare for our wedding in 3 months, it’s amazing to look back and see the path we’ve been on and realize that the shut doors and twisting paths actually led somewhere much better than we could have planned for ourselves. With this testimony of God’s faithfulness, I am excited to see what other unexpected adventures lay ahead.

I sought the Lord and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears – Psalm 34:4

Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5 and epilouge

We were both young when I first saw you… (Part 5)

Part 1Part 2Part 3, or Part 4. I continue with the fall after our cancelled wedding.

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At the end of September I considered giving up and going back home. And then, after only 2 weeks of interning, my team leader informed me that they wanted to bring me on as a full time graphic designer. I received a livable salary and full-time benefits. After that I couldn’t deny that God wanted me to stay where I was and work on things. I was so happy about my job and yet our relationship hit rock bottom that same weekend.

We returned to our alma mater for homecoming that weekend. I realized how far our relationship had fallen. After living in relative isolation in a new town for a month, being back with friends who showed me true love, it was easy to see how Dave and my relationship was suffering . * sidenote* I don’t write this to just bring up past hurt, but only to truly convey how incredible the healing and the power of Christ in our lives has been.

During our drive back north at the end of the weekend, I knew there was no future with this boy if he couldn’t sort through the issues he was having. I told him so and told him that as his sister in Christ I cared more about his soul and his relationship with our Savior than our own romantic one. I discovered the power of the gospel as a solution to our issues. I shared the gospel with him for the rest of that drive. And for the first time he opened up a bit about his struggles and pain. I encouraged him to confront them and seek counseling. He had a lifetime of hurt and baggage to work through that were keeping him from an intimate relationship with God. That was the day I surrendered to God and knew if it were to work out, He’d was the only one who could orchestrate that.

The rest of the fall was rough, but nothing close to as bad as September. Every time we took 2 steps forward, we fell back 1 step. More long conversations happened and praying that God would be the center of our relationship. I learned that fall what it means to have Jesus as my one and only confidence and foundation.995027_10152087025874770_2111396929_n

Two steps forward, one back. But slowly being pulled out of the hole.

Mid-November we realized our engagement was a lie and since we weren’t at a place where marriage was a reality, it was wrong for me to be committed in that way. We also hoped that by ending our engagement, relations with our families would improve. The strain between us had kept us from handling some unfortunate situations properly and we knew an all around rebuilding was necessary.

Strangely, I consider the beginning of December a turning point. I got my little kitten right after Thanksgiving and we spent Advent rediscovering the joy of our relationship. It was such a peaceful and happy time. It felt like light had returned to our lives together. 1522258_10152087111584770_1738992287_n

Little Baby Ellie = our little joy kitten

The rest of the winter was a continued journey. We found a church we loved and began to feel like we were slowly growing roots in our new hometown. Dave-Man’s offer on a house came through and he bought his first house. Looking back now I see how Christ almost miraculously saved our “us.”

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Happiness, real and peace grounded in love

The way things looked then, I don’t think I could have imagined things turning around more. I now know what it means to be loved completely by Dave-man and what had been missing. He has become a new man since he realized the true meaning of the gospel and once Christ became the center of our interactions.

Final part to come next week in time to celebrate the holiday of LUUUUVE… 

Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5 and epilouge

We were both young when I first saw you… (Part 4)

If you missed Part 1Part 2, or Part 3. I continue with the summer after we got engaged.

ourstory

Newly engaged, we decided on Memorial Day not to go out to Colorado and that Dave-Man should take a job in north-eastern Michigan. It was the right choice for us, but it left me alone working my summer job, trying to plan a wedding by myself.1025825_10151676920969770_55187284_o

One of our engagement pictures from May 2013.

At this point is when God really started to shake things up. I say this because the troubles for the next six months were his way of bringing our issues to the surface and having us work through them. Only when you see the darkest parts of yourself, can you also see the brilliant light of Christ.

Dave-Man pulled completely away from me. Past hurts and baggage from his childhood prevented him from wanting to be vulnerable. He realized marriage meant letting someone into the deepest and most intimate parts of his heart. He joked about his “heart of stone” — that he couldn’t love. How can anyone walk toward marriage with a heart of stone?

A month before the planned wedding date we called it off and that Labor Day weekend came and I moved into the apartment we had planned on moving into as newly-weds alone. I took a huge leap of faith and moved out of my hometown, 3 hours north, alone and hoped we could work out whatever was going on with us. A week after moving, I got a graphic design internship. It was an obvious sign from God that he would provide for me in this new home.

1378600_10151942558214770_1266844277_nThis is when I learned that in loneliness there is only one to turn to. I found the only one who can comfort and who truly anchors your life is always there for you. That He is faithful through the darkest night and joy will come with the morning. It is an important lesson for a woman to learn that her desire for love can only be fulfilled by her heavenly Father and that no earthly man will ever be able to fill that giant need for love.

One night I was struggling and searching for comfort in the psalms. I was reading Psalm 27 — The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? —  as I reached the end of the passage what I can only explain as the Holy Spirit finished the psalm for me in an audible voice: I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living! Wait for the LORDbe strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!

In that moment I knew that God promised me joy and peace during my life even though the current times were so hard.

To be continued… 

Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5 and epilouge

This isn’t a very cheery part of our story, but it is an important and crucial one. Without these hard times, we would have had a pretty miserable first year of marriage. It was so good for us to work through these problems. I promise the next part will be less dark.

We were both young when I first saw you… (Part 3)

If you missed Part 1 or Part 2. I left off with us returning home after a whirlwind camping trip.

ourstory

We officially started dating mid-August, but I’ve always considered our anniversary the date of our starlit chats. Because that’s when the “us” truly started.

383497_10151191393374770_652252071_nThe first week of school he gave me a beautiful arrangement of flowers and told me he loved me. I appreciated that he made it a special moment. Otherwise I’m sure it would have accidentally slipped out from one of us. He told me that he loved me as well as he knew how to at that time. It was a special reminder that as time passes our understanding of and ability to love only grows.

Since Dave-Man ‘s graduation he had considered many paths, including grad school and career. He got a kind of gap year to figure out what he wanted when the school hired him on as their interim director of security. And I was thrilled because that meant he spent my s559363_10151191395339770_769872276_nenior year around. Thinking back now, I can’t imagine how hard that year must have been for him. I’m so grateful he was around, but I don’t think I could have done what he did.

That year was interesting for me as well. I tried to balance dating this awesome guy that I never knew when he was a student, but now was dating as a alumni. I wanted to squeeze every last drop from living with my sorority sisters, overlapping for one year at college with my little sister, savor a full year of art classes and preparing for my senior show, and the last year I would ever live with so many dear friends so near.

577925_10151296192679770_1003556758_nAnother issue we struggled with the college culture that can tend to assuming relationships should follow a certain path. There is little privacy and relationships are expected to follow a specific trajectory that ends with a “ring by spring.” Both of us had a hard time not falling prey to comparing ourselves to other relationships or doing things because of how it would look to others. It was a good year for growing up and growing together

By spring time, we were looking forward to a life together. We both had teaching jobs lined up in Colorado Springs and the only way we thought we could move out there together was married. And so we got engaged the last week of my senior year — one year to when we started to get to know each other. I had foiled his plans for a week by inviting my friends along with us on all his proposal attempts. (I was just trying to soak up every last moment of college.)

He finally nabbed me alone and headed to a nearby lake, gave me a note written on birch bark and got down on one knee. It was beautiful. 901020_10151614104689770_1564825067_o

This memory will forever be special. He had just proposed and it was a joyful thing between us.

Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5 and epilouge

We were both young when I first saw you… (Part 2)

If you missed Part 1. I’m continuing with the summer before my senior year of college and after Dave-man’s graduation.

ourstory

The first 2 months of summer I cooked for any students and friends left in town and we’d have bonfires, go to movies, and just hang out together. We never hung out alone that I can remember. ( Later I found out that the meals I cooked for him, were some of the only real meals he ate that summer.)

Before my heart was ready to open up to this Mr. Dave-man, my mind slowly realized that he was pretty cool. Whenever we talked we never ran out of stuff to discuss. Rationally I realized he was not only strong and sweet, but could also be a goof ball and enjoyed a good time. For some reason at one point I vividly remember noticing his blue pick up truck and thinking “Man if I were looking for a guy to like, this one would be trouble.”

At the beginning of July I was house-sitting for my parents by myself and was alone when my childhood black lab pooch had a breathing attack while a had a group of friends over for dinner. Dave-Man was there as I struggled with taking care of my doggie. That night Bo Jack died and I was alone. I was glad I got to be there for him, but it was a really hard day. Dave-Man and another guy friend came to help me dig a grave and a girlfriend kept me company. I still remember the guys working so so hard to dig — that summer was insanely dry and hot — in ground that was so hard. Dave-Man gave me a hug that day, and I realized he might like me when I pulled away from the hug before he was ready to let me go.

From his point of view, he claims the first thing he noticed about me was that I have the type of personality he was looking for in someone he’d like to spend the rest of his life with. He says there was one night he was thinking about this when he realized that “Hey she’s kinda cute too.” So he was attracted to my personality first — whether that’s a good thing or not, I haven’t decided yet. 😉D&E

Mid-July a girl-friend and I had a camping trip planned in Northern Michigan. Of all the many different people we had asked to come on the trip with us, only Dave-Man was available. So the three of us, plus my and Dave-man’s little sisters joined us.

We had the best week — camping on a pristine beach, hiking, swimming in waterfalls and Lake Superior, exploring little towns and Marquette, and generally enjoying the beauty of Pictured Rocks National Shoreline. It would have been amazing if it was just that.D&E4

But in the evenings we’d go star gazing. The beach we were on is called Twelve-mile Beach and when you lay out at night the only artificial light you may see is an ore ship way out on the lake. No light pollution, nothing. So just imagine how bright and stunning the night sky is. We saw countless shooting stars, thunderstorms miles out across the lake and never got tired of looking up at a sky that looked like it had no dark spots — only stars.

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Well Dave-Man and I would linger when the others went to bed. We just had so much to talk about. We weren’t sure what we were getting into. We joke I thought it was a summer fling. We were having the best time. Little did I know that he had planned on asking me out after the trip all along.

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We got back and weren’t sure what would happen. I made it clear I’d like to continue whatever was happening, but we both had to figure out what that would look like.

To be continued…

Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5 and epilouge

slip quietly

Understand, I’ll slip quietly

Away from the noisy crowd

When I see the pale Stars rising,

blooming over the oaks

I’ll pursue solitary pathways

Through the pale twilit meadows,

With only this one dream:

You come too.

– Rainer Maria Rilke


Long ago, I imagined a fancy and fanciful life story for myself. It was extravagant and wonderfully cliche. Strangely those romantic dreams focused more on the “things” instead of the true significance. But once the shadowy “prince” became an actual person in real life, the material fades as the reality emerges.  A sparkly ring is only valuable in a relationship when it represents true commitment. A bended knee seems cheesy unless the person in front of you is the one you’ve learned to love more dearly than life. It’s only through the hundreds of small moments when we choose love instead of selfishness that gestures gain their real romance. I’ve learned that true romance means little things like Dave-man starting my car so I don’t have to go out into the cold. Or stifling a snippy comment when I’m annoyed. Or giving up my lunch hour because I know he needs encouragement. None of those would make a good childhood fairy tale. But it isn’t about what you do that makes something romantic but truly who you do it with.

Living my story has meant soaking up beautiful moments as Dave and I realized we are the “one” for each other. Quietly realizing that this man is going to be my adventure buddy for the rest of my life — a simple “when” as we talk about our futures together.

In Austria, we visited so many perfectly “romantic” places: in front of Klimt’s “The Kiss,” surrounded by the Alps, overlooking a panoramic view of rolling hills, skiing through fluffy snow-covered pines, and even dressed in traditional Austrian Tracht on Christmas Eve. At these moments Dave looked at me and asked me to marry him. Not because he had planned it, but in special moments we know the only way we want to continue is with the other.

And so when he asked my to dress up and be ready for a dinner one evening this past week, I knew what was coming. We stood on a little hill in the park that was a refuge for us when we first arrived in a new town. We lost feeling in our fingers after only 5 minutes because the windchill was double digits below zero. But the snow sparkled like glitter and Dave-man asked me to be his wife one final time. And we made if official with a lovely little ring.

And in perfect adventure mode, we went to this tiny four corner town with what looked like a bar and then walked in to find a 5 star restaurant. We got the royal treatment as we savored the moment.

And to be completely cliche and wonderfully honest, I couldn’t imagine my story without Dave-man next to me. Or in the words of Anne “I don’t want sunbursts or marble halls, I just want you.” (Anne of the Island)

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