Saturday, January 30, 2010

Just So Thankful...

I'm going to get a little sentimental for a moment here and talk about the love of my life:). I don't think I've been too terribly mushy or giddy in talking about Nat on my blog.... in fact, I haven't even devoted an entire category to him like some girls do after they get engaged! Well, actually, I take that back because I do have a category called The Cliff-Hanger series ~ but that's the story of how we got together, so besides that..... :D.

Nat and I often tell each other we are exceptionally blessed because we get to see each other so much during any given week. I was a little disappointed tonight (ahem, Friday night - it's now Saturday morning!) that he couldn't come over, but that's because he wasn't feeling well. After he said he wasn't coming over, I was thinking once again that I'm pretty blessed to have him so nearby and Sunday really isn't that far away when I get to see him again:).

When Nat went on a trip several weeks ago, he was gone for a few days and as I told this to a friend, she cheered me up by saying, "Hey! At least you're not in Thailand while you're engaged!" Perspective is a funny thing because it made me much happier to know Nat was only four states away rather than me being several time zones away in a foreign country!

I was thinking the other day about how much has changed since the day I came home from Thailand. In five short months, God took me around the "bend in the road" and gave Nat to me. He has become my best friend and I still get chills when he calls me and when he tells me he loves me. I don't deserve this wonderful man of God and I am so completely amazed at the way we compliment each other. Doing things like raking leaves, baking, washing dishes, baby-sitting, going shopping for a refugee family, looking at pictures, etc. ~ have become so much more fun because I get to do those things with Nat!

My Sweetie

Grow old along with me... the best is yet to be!
~Robert Browning~

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Spontaneous Road Trip!

In the hopes of surprising Rebecca, I never mentioned I was heading out to the Midwest over the weekend for a quick visit. I assure you this trip was *quick* in a couple of ways: (1) we were only out there for three days (2) the idea popped into my head to go only last Tuesday (3) I somehow convinced my brother-in-law and sister to tag along for the weekend 24 hours before we left:).

My parents really were planning on going out for a visit, and when I found out I had off from work on Saturday (and I always have off Tuesday and Wednesday), I decided to ask off on Monday so I could go along with my parents. In talking with my sister Thursday night, she asked me my plans for the weekend and I told her about the trip. I mentioned how I was going to share some wedding ideas with my sister-in-law (who is in the wedding) and then jokingly said my sister should come too so I could have two bridesmaids in the same room to talk about plans.

I didn't think she would seriously say yes... but she did:). After talking with her husband, and me offering to help drive out with them, Friday morning they decided it was a go. This was the best weekend for them to take the 11-hour trip since they're both teachers and had off Monday. We headed out Friday night, and along the way I called my sister-in-law in the Midwest and told her *surprise surprise* that I was coming out. I failed to mentioned so were three other people, but knew my brother and sister-in-law well enough to know they would be so surprised and would love it:).

The expressions on their faces Saturday morning made it worth it all! They couldn't believe my sister and her family would travel all that way for pretty much 1.5 days. We had such a good time and, as I mentioned above, it was so much fun to see Rebecca's face on Sunday morning:). Good times!

We were crazy enough to drive through the night Friday night and then stay up Saturday night playing games, but it was so much fun to spend time as a family and to laugh:).

Two of my nephews ~ Trevor (7) and Andrew (4).

Trevor and his daddy (my oldest brother Jack).

Lake Michigan is right down the road and while it is so much more fun to be at the lake in the summertime, we still ventured out on the snow-covered lake and snapped a few pictures:).

The expression on his face is absolutely priceless! Trevor is autistic, but has grown in so many different ways. When he saw me Saturday morning he said, "Auntie Anne! You CAME!!!" as if he knew all along I was coming:).

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

From His Perspective ~ Part 4!

Part Four

The day of our engagement was a blur of activity. Anne had mentioned that she had only been truly surprised one time in her life, so I was going to do my best to intersect with her plans for the day, in a way that she would not expect. Knowing of Anne’s fondness for walking with a special friend, I ask that friend if she could help me out by scheduling a walking date sometime that week. Her friend did a great job and responded with a confirmed walk on Tuesday, Oct. 20th. “Perfect!” I thought. “She’ll never be expecting me to show up on the busiest day of my schedule.” But, it was not to be that easy. First of all, my Pastor and his family were leaving for Botswana that morning and after seeing them off, Anne decided to stick around the church and help out. So, I had to sneak out without Anne finding out where I was heading. Fortunately for me, I have friends in strategic places. Not only did Kristen run interference for me at the front desk, but my good buddy Ben was quick on the Instant Messaging defense when Anne asked where I was. Not sure how much she knew, I just slid back further into the hiding place and waited.

My plan was working perfectly, until Anne called on the phone. “Uh-oh…there goes my cover," I thought, but I made sure to not give any specifics about where I was, even though you could hear the birds chirping in the trees. =) I must smile at how us guys get all bent out of shape over the surprise aspect of the engagement. Anyway, it all worked out in the end, just a little differently than I had imagined.

I carefully stuffed a dozen roses into my backpack and waited outside of view, along the side of the walking path. As Anne approached, I simply walked down the hill toward her, and expertly dumped a vase of water into my backpack as I handed her a dozen roses. (Note to self: long-stem roses should be trimmed before you put them in a vase ;-). Oh well, but hey, she was actually surprised and I think we both were in shock that this was actually happening. I know I was, because I kept going ‘round in circles trying to explain how I felt the Lord had led us together. I finally broke out of my nervousness and got down to that all important question: “Anne, will you marry me?” She thrilled me by saying “yes” and I gave her something shiny to seal the deal. =)

Although it would be easy to end with some cliche like “the rest is history,” I would point out two important facts: 1) God is the only one who can receive glory from bringing Anne and I together. He has been faithful to work things out despite our failures and inconsistencies. 2) Unless the Lord build the house, they labor in vain to build it. It has been such a blessing to hear of all that have prayed for this relationship to come together, and we would ask you to keep it up. What a special joy it has been for Anne and I to swap notes over the past two months of engagement and to see all that God has built into our lives to bring us to this point in time. With only 6 months to go until the wedding (July 10, 2010), we rejoice in God’s goodness, and are excited about all that God is preparing for our future together. I love you Anne!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

From His Perspective ~ Part 3

Part Three

Okay, you’ve been very patient so far, so on to the fun part of the story. =) I had sent my good friend Ben to Thailand ahead of me to capture footage for the video project. Somewhere along the way, Ben decided that Anne and I would make a good couple and figured that must be a the underlying motivation for my trip. Of course, I was *completely* focused and hit the ground running: using the few days that we had available to finish the video script and tape the narration. One evening, along the Thai-Burmese border, Ben came into my room and asked me point blank if I was interested in Anne. The first thought that came to mind was, “Lie!” but instead I said, “Yeah…I am. Is it that obvious?” His smile assured me that it was. “Do you think Anne knows?” was his next question. I responded with, “No…I don’t think she… um, yeah – she must know.” Duh, what was I thinking? Anne is a bright girl and must have known of my interest for some time now. Suddenly it dawned upon me that my “secret evaluation tactics” had failed, and the situation had become serious. I had better figure out the next step in our friendship, and quickly.

I had come on this trip asking the Lord to give some clear details for future ministry. Not only did he give me clear direction in that area, but it became quite obvious that Anne was the perfect complement to this plan of action. Not wanting to be swayed by the excitement of the moment, I quietly spoke with my two missionary friends about Anne and then took these thoughts back to my Pastor. He gave some wise counsel on how to move from a casual friendship to a “get to know you” stage, with the purpose of seeing if Anne and I were suitable for marriage. I’m so grateful for his care and instruction, as well as the new preaching series on Biblical principles for getting to the marriage altar. =) It was all very helpful, and I was grateful that those who knew about our situation kept things quiet so that we could move toward commitment without any extra pressure from the excitement of friends.

Now, you have to understand that although Anne and I had known each other for over 3 years, I didn’t know her family at all. That was the big unknown factor: how would I get along with them, and how would her Dad respond to my desire to pursue marriage? Well, the only way to know was to ask. After compiling my “Getting to Know Anne profile,” for my family, and receiving Dad and Mom’s permission to proceed, I took the matter to Mr. Hammond. I asked if Anne and I could talk with each other directly, for the purpose of seeing if we were compatible for marriage, and he said, “Yes!” Well, I didn’t waste any time, but dropped off a book of questions for Anne and I to discuss over the phone. Then I phoned Anne to let her know what I had set in motion. Guess what? She wasn’t taken by surprise. =) LOL, actually, I knew that…I just wanted to make sure that I followed the right order of events.

So, we set off on a mission to ask the most important questions we could without getting our emotions involved (Yes, I can see those smiles). We soon learned that was impossible, so we did our best to stick to subjects that would be ‘deal breakers’ and tried to limit our conversations and interaction to a few phone calls per week. At the same time, I was trying to interact with her family and discuss things with my family, so that they would both be up to speed with our discussions. Anne and I wanted to move toward commitment as soon as possible, so that we didn’t have to stay in the awkward middle-land of close friendship/courtship any longer than we had to. Finally, after much prayer, many phone calls, and seeking counsel of my pastor and parents, I was confident that I should move forward with the proposal. I received the final permission from her Dad and set out for the most difficult task yet – surprising Anne. =)

Monday, January 11, 2010

From His Perspective ~ Part 2

Nat e-mailed me the rest of his perspectives from "The Cliff-Hanger Series" and normally I am all about being efficient, but in this instance I'm going to post them one at a time. That way each part will have its own blog post and for those of you who read this in google reader or blog lines, you won't have "part 4" show up before "part 3" or "part 2." I know, I know ~ call me quirky! Anyway, here is part 2 from Nat's perspective...

Okay, well I can't think of any good explanation or excuse for the tardiness of these posts, so I'll pretend that these are hot off the press. =)

Part Two

For Anne, things started to "click" on the bus ride to IL. For me, it took the bus ride, casual discussions over lunch break, my sister coming up to visit and staying at Anne's house, a volleyball game and extra time in the Production room to get my attention. =) You can call me dense, but I choose the title "focused." =) I remember sitting at lunch one day and thinking how Anne was the type of person that I would like to marry, in that our personalities were a good match. However, as much as I respected Anne's personality, I really didn't expect anything to work out between us, because the Lord hadn't given me clearance to pursue her. I was simply content to be friends and enjoyed the fact that we could interact without reading between the

Anne left for Thailand and apart from missing her smiling face in the office, I honestly didn't think much about her until my trip in October. You see, I had set all specific plans for Thailand aside over the last two years, so I was excited to travel with 5 guys from my church and "introduce" them to the land that I had grown to love. Since I had always stayed for at least a month on previous trips, I naturally extended the 2-week time period of the team to have an extra 10 days to spend with Gaudets and Langes. I enjoyed being a part of the office crew for a week, and it suddenly dawned upon me how much Anne really enjoyed being in Thailand. I really don't know what I was expecting, but since I wasn't a faithful blog follower, it took that trip to reveal her heart for the mission field. I was impressed with her ability to thrive in the midst of the struggles on the field, and how God had knit her heart with the two missionaries that I had grown to love and respect. Looking back at that time, I see that my casual interest in Anne spoke louder than I would have imagined. I still remember the look on Pookie's face when she learned that Anne and I had the same birthday. It was like we had somehow conspired that to happen and were hiding some secret from her. =) Well, if a secret was hidden from anyone at that time, it was hidden from me. My mind was busily at work, thinking through my plans for Bible Institute and how I could assist with the work in Thailand, in the midst of my preparation.

I left Thailand with a renewed vision for ministry and a desire to come back soon and help Bro. Tom with a few projects. The Lord knew I needed that spiritual boost because shortly after I returned home, I had to deal with a difficult situation at church that could have set me into a tailspin. However, the Lord was faithful and used this trial to strengthen my ability to stand alone for the truth. So as the dust settled, I pulled out my plans for a short trip to Thailand and started looking for a free space on the calendar. I had originally planned to travel back to Thailand in February, but it seemed that everything was against that time frame. I had several urgent projects to deal with, our yearly high school trip to IL, and a Bible Institute course that was taught only once every seven years. So, although I couldn’t make it at that time, I sent over two other guys to try and be of help, while I was busy at home. That’s when things started to fall into place with my communication with Anne.

In an effort to keep up with Bro. Tom’s projects and needs, I found myself chatting with Anne quite frequently. Anne was a consistent point of contact for the Thailand office, and so when I saw her online, I would stop by to get the latest news from the field. Then one day, I realized how much of a regular habit I had made of chatting with Anne. In my mind, I was careful to keep the conversation limited to prayer requests and projects, but I also knew how much I enjoyed stopping by to say hello. Then it hit me – I’d better pray about whether I should continue to talk with Anne, because I was starting to cross the line from casual friendship into close friendship – serious stuff.

I’m so glad that I didn’t know what was going through Anne’s mind at this time, or I could have been seriously side-tracked from following God’s timing of events. All I knew was that God had placed a desire on my heart to get to know Anne better, and to do so in a way that would not stir up her emotions or the excitement of friends. Okay, so in looking back, I’ve learned that my tactics weren't as secretive as I thought, but I really did try to limit the frequency and content of my communication with Anne. Anyway, realizing the seriousness of the situation, I grabbed a stack of character qualities and set out to do some homework. I have to say that I was surprised by how many situations I could recall that matched the qualities in question. According to my calculations, I actually knew Anne better than I thought I did.

Then the thought hit me that maybe God was bringing our paths together. “No, that must be my imagination,” I thought. “Focus, Nat, focus.” I had been planning a video project with Tom Gaudet, but the timing kept getting pushed back due to our schedules. Finally, I secured a date for August and stuck to that. I was now praying specifically about Anne, but I honestly didn’t think that she had a clue or any desire toward me. That is the beauty of how things unfolded in my mind. Even though it wasn’t a secret to her or to those in Thailand, God kept confirming his will to pursue Anne in ways that were not influenced by others. In my mind, I was embarking on a secret project. To the rest of the world, Nat was slowly waking up to the obvious. =)

Friday, January 8, 2010

Just A Minute... Definitely Worth It!

For Christmas my future mother-in-law gave me a book entitled, "Come Away My Beloved" - 365 one-minute meditations. Now I will admit that I'm usually not very good at keeping up with a year-long devotional book, but so far I've made it 8 days!

The entry for January 4th made me stop as I considered the challenge issued. Here's the brief entry:
"And he said, Take... thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah: and offer him there." ~ Genesis 22:2
No price is too great to pay for the proper care of that which I have given you. Never regard lightly that which is precious in My sight. There is always an alternative to the life of relinquishment, but it is lean and barren. That which is most precious needs to be offered up to Me continually. My grace is as a beacon. It shall shed light on all that is now obscure.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Home Again!

I'm home again after a great trip to Texas - one of those trips that went by way too fast! I really enjoyed spending time with Nat's family and getting to know them better. With a bunch of little kids in the house, there was always something going on:).

On Wednesday we were able to slip away to Fort Worth and visit with some dear friends of ours, which was definitely worth the drive! Saturday night my brother-in-law picked us up from the Philly airport and we were able to enjoy dinner with my sister and her family before returning home. I have off today from work but Nat got to jump back into his projects, so I'm thinkin' vacation is pretty much over:).

Nat's little sister (3 years old) was intrigued with both of our cameras and did a pretty good job at snapping some photos. I just won't show the close-up pictures she took of herself;).

Nat's family (minus his older brother and wife).
Big sister making sure little sister doesn't fall over the fence:).

Rather than stick to the trail, we branched out a little bit and crossed this stream often:). It was definitely an adventure... but a lot of fun to spend time together as a family!