She’s Getting Married

One of the first pictures I ever posted on my blog of MacKenzie Grace was this sweet picture of her on a mission trip in Jamaica.

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I’ve always been so proud of her love of God and her passion for christian living.  As all of our children have grown up Audley and I have prayed so many prayers that we raise our children in a way pleasing to God.  We have not been perfect parents, but we have tried to be what God expects.  As we have prayed over our children, we started from birth praying that when the time came, God would send the perfect person to accompany our kids through their adult years.  I was specific in my prayers that God send them someone who could compliment their personalities, love them unconditionally through all the good and bad this world has to offer, someone that they could mutually submit to and respect, and above all someone that would help them get to Heaven.

Well, MacKenzie’s getting married!

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Up in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, her boyfriend, Michael, popped the question this past weekend.

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And just like that my sweet little girl is going to be a Mrs.

Not only is she going to become a Mrs., she is going to be a minister’s wife!

I think God answered our prayer.

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They are giddy with excitement and so in love.

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And I can’t wait to see how God uses them in their future together!

The date is set for June 3, 2017, so be prepared to see a lot more posts as the day arrives!

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Marriage Matters: It’s the Little Things

In just two short weeks Audley and I will celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary.  I never thought I could love this man of mine any more than I did on the day we said “I Do”, but truly, I DO!

We were so young!!

We were so young!!

I’ll be the first to admit we haven’t had the perfect marriage, nor have I been a perfect wife, but I wouldn’t change a thing we have been through the last twenty years for anything.

There was a time when marriages that lasted 20 years was quite the norm, but not any longer.  My heart hurts for the many friends of ours whose marriages have crumbled and broken up over the years.  On more than one occasion Audley or I have been asked how we have such a happy marriage and kept it together despite the odds that are stacked against all of us in this world.

The truth of it all is narrowed down to one scripture from the Song of Solomon….. “I am my beloveds and he is mine.”

Yes, we have a brick at the NASCAR Hall of Fame immortalizing our love for each other .... and the sport.

Yes, we have a brick at the NASCAR Hall of Fame immortalizing our love for each other …. and the sport.

It’s that simple.  Audley and I belong to each other; I submit to (completely respect) him as the head of our home, family & spiritual life and he in returns respects, honors and treats me like a queen and “loves me as Christ loves the Church and gave himself for her.”  I am not trampled on, taken advantage of or looked down upon, but we are partners in a life that is Christ centered.  We make mistakes, but at the end of the day we still love, honor and cherish each other which leads to a love that makes us truly happy.

Today I thought it would be fun to share just a few ways that we keep the love and romance alive.  After all, it’s the little things we do that will make or break any relationship we are in!

1.  Next to God, Always put your spouse first.  And I do mean always.  Yes moms, your kids/jobs/home/life in general have exhausted you, but remember, your spouse is tired as well.  Husbands must deal with deadlines, disgruntled employees, demanding clients, and in some cases OSHA, MSHA and the EPA which can make for a mentally exhausted man at night.  Don’t give your leftovers to your lover, give them your all, even if it’s putting the kids to bed an hour early (IN THEIR OWN BEDS…. I’m so against co-sleeping) so you can fall asleep on the couch together.  Your spouse deserves to feel wanted in their own home, not a guest who is in the way.

2. Pray or have devotion time together.  The world is constantly hitting us from all directions.  Its our jobs, family obligations, current events, music…. you name it, there is plenty to take us away from God and directly toward the world.  Take time to reconnect with God and your spouse.  I can assure you that those moments of prayer and devotion are the strongest you will feel in your love and marriage.  Audley and I have done the Love Dare together, as well as used a devotional Bible for couples over the years.  Read books to inspire or encourage your marriages.  Of late Tony & Lauren Dungy’s book “Uncommon Marriage” and Al & Lisa Robertson’s “A New Season” have been reads of ours.

3.  Date your spouse.  You dated to get to know each other before you married, so don’t let it stop!  Once kids and jobs come into in picture we change.  You need the time alone together.  Believe me, it does you a lot of good!  Keep dating each other and always having fun together!  When it comes to dating, you don’t have to make it expensive or extravagant.  Believe me, in our 20 years together we have been broke as can be and still found a way to have one-on-one time.  I know sitters aren’t always available or affordable, but you still need that time alone.  Our favorite dates ever have been the ones where we never left the house.  Those were nights when we put the kids to bed EARLY, ordered take-out and picnicked right in our living room.  A few candles, soft music and food someone else cooked and we are were all set!

Sushi carpet picnic anyone?

Sushi carpet picnic anyone?

Even with our kids perfectly capable of taking care of themselves, we still like our traditional carpet picnic.  Try it!

4.  Talk.  Something so simple, but something that so many stop doing.  Talk about work, home, kids, hopes, dreams, plans, ideas, feelings, highs and lows.  Don’t hide things from your spouse.  Share the happy moments, the irritating moments and the funny moments; let your spouse do the same.  You can laugh and be silly, but whatever you do, don’t be afraid to communicate!  This is how you continue to know who you are married to.  We all change as life circumstances change.  If you aren’t communicating then you  are losing the opportunity to know who you are married to!  Audley puts it this way:

“If you have an expensive car like a Mercedes, BMW or Lexus, you’ll do whatever you must in the way of maintenance to keep that car at peak performance. You know that vehicle, it’s quirks, what makes it run well and you know when it’s not at its best, and needing maintenance.

It’s the same way with your spouse. You learn when things are well with your mate, what they like and dislike, when they are struggling, and even every little quirk they have. They are precious and should be treated as such. You do whatever maintenance is needed to keep your marriage fresh, alive and always growing; always at it’s best.”

And one last point, communicating is NOT nagging, griping and beating down your spouse because they aren’t living up to YOUR expectations.

“Better to dwell in a corner of a housetop, than in a house shared with a contentious woman.” ( Proverbs 21:9) “Better to dwell in the wilderness, than with a contentious and angry woman.” ( Proverbs 21:19)

“Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.” (I Peter 3:7)

5.  Take care of yourself.  Oh how controversial this can be especially for stay-at-home-moms.  I have heard the excuse so many times that it is more important to take care of the kids instead of yourself and I’m totally going to say that is a crock!  Don’t neglect your children by any means, but take the time to pull yourself together for your own sanity and for your spouse.  Ladies, in most any industry in which your man works, he is around women who are dressed for success.  How do you think he feels to come home and see you still in your pajamas, hair unkempt and food from the kids on your shirt?  I’m not saying go all “Stepford” for him (well maybe occasionally surprise him there…. haha), but shower while the kids nap or watch a movie, brush your hair even if it’s to put in a ponytail or headband, add a little mascara & lipstick, and for heaven’s sake, put on some clean clothes!  Yoga pants with a matching tee-shirt is perfect.  Jeans and a button down top work well.

I have two favorite at-home “uniforms”: maxi dresses (they are light and flowy) and leggings with one of Audley’s button-down shirts. Add lip gloss, mascara and a pair of earrings and I feel beautiful!

And while I’m on the subject of taking care of things, don’t neglect your home either.  Take a few minutes each day to pick up before your spouse comes in.  The less chaos that greets a husband or wife when they arrive home, the more relaxing the evening can be!  (I’ll cover this in another post)

6.  Compliment one another.  It’s OK to tell your spouse that they look good/pretty/hot/sexy….. Really, it is!  Recognize when your wife has a new haircut or color and compliment them.  Wives, don’t forget to tell your hubby how great the yard looks after he has mowed.  And even after twenty years its OK to continually tell your spouse that your favorite pot roast and vegetables is still the bomb.

7.  Surprise one another.  Nothings says I am thinking of you more than a little surprise for your love.  Surprises don’t even have to be extravagant.  Here are a few ideas:

*Love notes in lunch box/suitcase/briefcase/diaper bag….

*Single rose (or favorite flower)

*Starbucks coffee at work

*Favorite chocolate bar (not good if your spouse is on a diet)

*Homecooked lunch at work

*Sleeve of golf balls before his next game

*A spa day for her

*Edible fruit arrangement

*a cake for two to eat after the kids go to bed (Publix has these in their bakery)

But a word of caution husbands…. appliances may surprise her, but not in a way you might like!

Power tools …. always a good surprise, especially for the DIY minded wife!

And lastly 8.  Even if the dog is barking, the kids are crying, you are a hot mess, or running behind, ALWAYS pause for a kiss and a hug!  As humans we crave touch and I don’t mean sexual touch.  We crave the comfort and love a hug can represent.  Touch can also be soothing to us; a way to ease the pain of things not going as you had planned for the day.  Men, your wife needs to know you are still attracted to her and want to touch her.  But more than anything showing affection to your spouse teaches your children that it’s ok to show love and affection to one another even after you say “I do”!  They may tell you how gross you are, but when you find a message they’ve shared saying their parents are #relationshipgoals, you’ll be glad you grossed them out.

Be great parents.... Gross your kids out!

Be great parents…. Gross your kids out!

I’ll be honest, I’m not ashamed of a little PDA.  I don’t care who knows that I am still madly and passionately and yes, even physically in love with my husband!  I’m more than happy to let the world have a peek at how wonderful life can be!  Besides, a little PDA during the day can lead to a little more intimacy once the lights go down.

And it’s OK.  After all you are married!

There are so many more ways to keep the flame alive in your marriages, but these are just a few that have been the most important in ours.  I hope you found a little inspiration for your own marriages today.  What do you do to keep the fires burning in your own marriages?

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Rocky Mountain High

As most of you know, Audley and I have been Dad & Mom as well as husband and wife since the day we said “I do”, as the love of my life was a package deal with his 3-year-old daughter I was blessed to raise. I have loved every minute of being Mom, especially as we added three more kiddos to our brood over the years, but I also really enjoy the moments Audley and I can be just husband and wife.

With a last-minute business meeting in Denver thrown into Audley’s schedule a couple of weeks ago he asked me to fly out with him for a mini get-away.  As you can imagine, I immediately started packing my bags!  It was a very fast trip (we flew out on a Thursday afternoon & back on Saturday evening), but we made the most of our time and had a fabulous time!  After Audley’s 1 1/2 hour meeting on Friday morning we drove out to Colorado Springs where we visited the Garden of the Gods, then drove all the way up Pike’s Peak for the most beautiful and memorable sightseeing tour I have ever experienced!

To be honest, words cannot begin to describe the beauty of Colorado.  I’ve always loved the Mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina, but those are mere hills compared to the Rockies.  And since I can’t adequately put into words the beauty of our afternoon, I thought sharing some of our photo highlights would be the way to go.

Grab you a glass of sweet tea; this is going to be like an old-fashioned slide show of family vacation from the 1960’s and 70’s.

Garden of the Gods

20th year of the Visitor Center

Garden of the Gods is a National Natural Landmark (since 1971) located in Colorado Springs.  Original inhabited by native Americans as early as 1330 BC, the red rock formations and how they came to be made for an amazing day of travel and hiking for many a visitor.  Originally known as Red Rock Corral, travelers have been fascinated by the unique area for generations, but the area wasn’t formally named until 1859 when two surveyors were exploring the site.  Much of the area was privately owned until 1909 when it was given to the city of Colorado Springs as long as it was used for a free public park.  The city purchased additional land which has grown into over 1300 acres over the years.

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A visitors and nature center are opened just outside the park entrance.  There you can view a movie telling the history of the area, dine of local game in the small cafe and learn about the animal as well a human inhabitants of the area.

Garden of the Gods Visitor Center

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nature center

Hungry for lunch?  Sounds delicious to me!

Hungry for lunch? Sounds delicious to me!

Entry-way to the Park

Entry-way to the Park

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Snow covered Pike’s Peak in the background

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Native Americans lived in the rock caves of this area to protect themselves from the harsh winter weather as well as using the grounds for hunting.  Now the rocks are explored daily by tourists from all over the world.  People also bike through the park, hike and rock climb.

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Balancing Rock ..... a prime photo opportunity

Balancing Rock ….. a prime photo opportunity

Rear of Balancing rock .... Federal Safety regs required the park to cement the rock into place despite the fact it had been balancing in the same formation for 100's of years.

Rear of Balancing rock …. Federal Safety regs required the park to cement the rock into place despite the fact it had been balancing in the same formation for 100’s of years.

I was totally fascinated by the trees that were literally growing on the rocks; roots exposed and all.  God is so amazing.

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We left Garden of the Gods and headed towards Pike’s Peak.  They quit allowing vehicles to drive up around 6:00, so we were very excited to make it just in time!

Welcome to Pike National Forest

Welcome to Pike National Forest

Of course Pike’s Peak has been around forever, and I am quite sure Native Americans explored, hunted and lived in the area for many generations, but the first Europeans to discover the mountain was recorded in the 1700’s.  The first “American” sighting of the Peak was by Zebulon Pike in the early 1800’s.  He attempted to climb it in 1806, but failed to do so.  He described the area in his journal….

“…here we found the snow middle deep; no sign of beast or bird inhabiting this region. The thermometer which stood at 9° above 0 at the foot of the mountain, here fell to 4° below 0. The summit of the Grand Peak, which was entirely bare of vegetation and covered with snow, now appeared at the distance of 15 or 16 miles (24 or 26 km) from us, and as high again as what we had ascended, and would have taken a whole day’s march to have arrived at its base, when I believed no human being could have ascended to its pinical. This with the condition of my soldiers who had only light overalls on, and no stockings, and every way ill provided to endure the inclemency of the region; the bad prospect of killing any thing to subsist on, with the further detention of two or three days, which it must occasion, determined us to return .”

~Pike, Zebulon M. (1810). An Account of Expeditions to the Sources of the Mississippi.

He never reached the top.  I could only imagine his thoughts if he were to have that opportunity today.  Several have conquered the mountain in the 200+ years since, including the first woman who accomplished the task in 1858!

Apparently there is a lot of wildlife in the area surrounding Pike's Peak!!

Apparently there is a lot of wildlife in the area surrounding Pike’s Peak!!

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The location is actually VERY romantic!  We couldn’t help but pause for a kiss.

Pike's Peak North Slope Recreation Area

Pike’s Peak North Slope Recreation Area

The view as we drove up was so amazing!  Audley and I kept stopping just to take it all in.

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In the Beginning GOD created the heavens and the earth .... Genesis 1:1
In the Beginning GOD created the heavens and the earth …. Genesis 1:1

It’s an 18 mile drive to the top of the Peak; with all of our stops it took just over an hour.  And the views were breathtaking from the top.

Literally.

I felt like I needed and oxygen tank.

WOW!

At the tip top of the peak
At the tip-top of the peak

Little did we know that it would be 35 degrees at the top.  To say we were underdressed is an understatement!   You can see snow in the distance, but you don’t realize how much there really is until you arrive at the top!

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Katharine Lee Bates wrote the song America the Beautiful in July of 1893 after seeing the view from the top of Pike’s Peak.  She originally wrote the words as a poem and those beautiful words were set to music in 1910.

There is a beautiful monument showcasing the words of this now treasured song atop the mountain.

God Bless America

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There is no doubt the inspiration that Katharine Lee Bates gleaned as she basked in the same glorious view that we did.

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Before we were to leave the top of the mountain the clouds were rolling in.  It was very strange feeling to be standing, then driving in the clouds.

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The ride down the mountain was much quicker as we were trying to beat the fog that was rolling in.  The park service were setting up the fog lights and turning them on as we began to descend.  I can imagine the danger of driving it at night in the fog and so glad we didn’t have to experience it!

Our time in Colorado Springs and the surround area was short, but totally unforgettable!  I would truly love to take our entire family out to see this area.  I know they will love as much as I did.

Next on our trip was taking in a little history in downtown Denver.  I’ll share that with you next week!

Have a fabulous weekend!

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Dating My Hubby

In August, Audley and I celebrated our nineteenth wedding anniversary.  According to everyone we work with, that’s a really big deal.

Personally I think everyday spent with my husband is a really big deal, but that’s for another day.

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It is a wonderful feeling though, knowing that we have made it through the awesome good times as well as the really bad, always fighting for us, our marriage and family in every thing we do.

I can’t say everything we’ve done has come easy (13 moves in 6 states, a hubby who had a heart attack at 33, various other health issues including my own obesity, and even in-law issues), but I can say without a doubt that the good, the bad; its all been worth it!

We were so young!!

We were so young!!

It’s also a really good feeling that after nineteen years, people still notice that we are madly and passionately in love with each other.    Even MacKenzie Grace recently had a girl that she works with make the comment that based on the way she (MacKenzie) acted and the comments she makes that she still had parents that were happily married.

Recently, we have a friend who has been going through a rough patch in their own life and marriage.  While in conversation with Audley and I a couple of weeks back they made the comment that they wanted a marriage like ours and then asked our secret.  Audley told them: “God First; Each other Second; and Self Third”.  Sounds simple enough, but so many choose not to have this kind of relationship.  It may be one person in the marriage or it may be both who are not putting the focus on where it should be.  It does take a toll on a marriage, maybe not early on but even twenty to thirty years later as couples are divorcing when they hit the empty nest.

There are many ways to keep your marriages strong, especially having a strong spiritual life together, but one way we keep our focus on each other is by dating.

Yes, after nineteen years of marriage, I still date my husband.

Regularly.

I know that may sound odd, but just like the whole six and a half  months we dated prior to our wedding, we still make plans and go out for the evening without our kids.  It’s not always been easy and at times we have had to be very creative (check out our carpet picnic here), but we have always made time for each other.

Really, dating is a great thing to benefit your marriage; a break from your element, downtime from the kids, time to reconnect with your spouse and talk about everything going on in your lives or the silly things that can keep your mind off work for a little while.

Yes, we all need it.

But, seriously, why do I date my husband?

I think my Audley actually says it best….

“If you have an expensive car like a Mercedes, BMW or Lexus, you’ll do whatever you must in the way of maintenance to keep that car at peak performance. You know that vehicle, it’s quirks, what makes it run well and you know when it’s not at its best, and needing maintenance.

It’s the same way with your spouse.  You learn when things are well with your mate, what they like and dislike, when they are struggling, and even every little quirk they have.  They are precious and should be treated as such. You do whatever maintainance is needed to keep your marriage fresh, alive and always growing; always at it’s best.”

“Wives submit (offer respect) to your husbands as to the Lord….

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for it…”

~Ephesians 5:22,25

Yes, our marriage relationships are precious, special, and lovely indeed!

Date night!

Date night!

I do love to date my man though.  It’s our time to disconnect from the stresses of the world and reconnect with one another.  We laugh, we talk, we share, we still dream and oh how we love!

Song of Solomon 3:4

Song of Solomon 3:4

Since Audley travels during the week for work, I have returned to the workforce this last year, and we have three very busy teenagers at home, our nights out are even more important to us now than even ten years ago!

Sometimes we dress-up and go to the theater (if you have a man that will watch Broadway AND ballet with you…. he’s good one!!), sometimes we go casual just strolling through a park (Audley will even go to the Country Living Fair at Stone Mountain with me), it may be sushi night, out to the movies (we have very opposite tastes so that isn’t too often), NASCAR races, slipping away for weekends in a hotel, watching football either live or at Buffalo Wild Wings, and sometimes we never even leave the house!  There are times we keep it cheap (or free) and times we go way out of our budget, but each and every moment is treasured and precious to us.

No matter what we do, we have found plenty of things that we are interested in together.  And that is the key…. together.  I have been very blessed to enjoy four girls weekends away this summer with girlfriends, bloggers, and my sisters.  Audley enjoys golf with the guys. But in the end, the most fun we have is always together.

Which is as it should be.

Just out of curiosity, how long have you been married and what do you do to keep the romance alive in your marriages?

I would love to know!

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