Dear Daniel

*Today’s letter is written by fellow blogger and writer Mary Agrusa. Thank you, Mary, for your willingness to share your gifts with the world!*

Dear Daniel,

blog mary agrusa nov 14From the first time Mikael demurely admitted she was seeing someone, her tone of voice told me you were special. For the longest time she tantalized me with this well kept mystery – like a decorated gift under the Christmas tree. The suspense exhilarated me.

Every now and then she’d let something slip, “Daniel’s soooo.” My gift appeared to be exquisitely wrapped…but what was inside? Hmm. She’d drop clues, share tidbits. I’d pick up the box, feel its weight and shake it for any revealing noises. Still the contents eluded me. Who was this person who’d captivated my little girl’s heart?

Finally the trip to Boston came. In addition to time spent with Mikael the opportunity to begin to unwrap my gift arrived. What would I find? I rooted for fireworks and shooting stars, and I wasn’t disappointed. When you casually mentioned that the two of you had discussed marriage, my heart soared. “He’s a keeper!” it proclaimed.

That afternoon in March I was only privy to half of the phone conversation between you and Joe. I could read between the remarks on our end that a wedding was in the works. I spent the next six weeks with my head in the clouds. Mikael had found her Prince Charming and I couldn’t be happier.

On that Friday in May at the Marriage Bureau in New York City, the gift was totally revealed – a son, and what a son he is! It was an honor to stand as a witness to your commitment to Mikael, complete with a non-return clause LOL. Blessed with a kind, compassionate heart, a great sense of humor, a profound love of God, coffee, all things Irish and Boston sports teams, you are Mikael’s perfect counter-balance. I marvel daily at God’s gracious addition to our family. He thought of everything.

Daniel, thank you for being “the one.” You took Mikael into your heart and made her (and Joe and I by default) an integral part of your life. In you I’ve received a gift of immeasurable worth and one I’ll cherish for the rest of my life.

Love,

Mary

Day 21: A look back

*Thanks to my friend Brandon Davidson for serving as the guest writer for Day 21  of the Dear Gratitude project. His post is guaranteed to make you laugh. It will probably cause you to pause and give thanks for all the people and circumstances that brought you where you are in your own life, too.*

Dear Bethany,

When you asked me to write a blog post, I agreed without really thinking about what in the world I would share with your readers.

I typically fly by the seat of my pants.

This is the story of my life.

One week after watching Batman Forever, I packed a trash bag full of clothes and hopped in a buddy’s truck. We were moving to Hollywood. We didn’t have the bankroll to get to Hollywood, CA, so we went for the next best thing–Hollywood, FL. (Newsflash, this is NOT the next best thing.) I spent a few months there and then tucked my tail between my legs and decided to move back to Arkansas and go to college.

I lasted one semester.

It was the classic story. Boy goes to college. Boy doesn’t go to class. Boy drinks way too much. Boy wakes up completely nude in a field, only to realize that he is just outside the outfield fence of a softball field while two high school teams battle it out.

Nothing to see here, just a dude cupping himself waddling back to campus.

Don’t worry, I’ll get thankful soon.

A few weeks later, I was asked to leave the school after mooning the Dean of the school’s wife and daughter.

The next year was a blur of playing semi-pro rugby, naked Trivial Pursuit, and trying to get back on track.

1. KathyI went back to school only to leave again when my Mom became disabled. I moved back home to be with my mom and brother. It was while in Batesville that I met Kathy and knew that she was the one. I asked her to marry me a little over a month after I met her. People thought we were crazy. We were, but we were also in love. Almost 15 years later, I can tell you without a doubt that I am who I am because of her.

I am thankful for Kathy.

After we got married, I spent the next few years in full time ministry in the Church.

I felt like I had a purpose, and it was intoxicating.

 

2. EmilyKathy and I welcomed a beautiful baby girl into the world in 2003.  From the moment I met Emily Grace, she has brought light into the world and filled my heart with love.

I am thankful for Emily.

When Kathy and I were first engaged, I was diagnosed with a pretty severe liver disease. The doctor told me that my prognosis was 10 years max and that I probably shouldn’t get married or have kids. I laid all this out for Kathy and told her that I loved her and that I had no plan other than to be with her. I asked her if she wanted to keep flying by the seat of our pants.

SHE SAID YES, YOU GUYS.

Not long after Emily was born, I got very sick. As a last resort the doctors tried a new treatment option. To my surprise, almost 20 weeks later I was cured. That was 10 years ago. Kathy had a newborn baby and a weakened husband, but we made it. She was unbelievably strong.

I am thankful for my family.

3. ChurchWorking for the church was demanding and I was horrible at balancing work/home. I was rewarded for being a bad dad and a shitty husband. Something had to give.

I walked away from my career in the church, and I haven’t looked back. I can always find another church if I want, but I can’t find another family.

A couple of weeks later, with no insurance and no jobs (Kathy was fired from her job at the church after I resigned. It’s a cool story; I’ll share it sometime), Kathy found out she was pregnant.

WHAT.

We had been trying for years. That miracle cure that healed my liver also supposedly made me sterile.

NOT SO MUCH.

I had a wife and a daughter and a baby the size of a strawberry on the way. (Side note: why do we use fruit when we are giving reference to babies’ sizes?)

4. buttJosh is 3 years old now and painted the most amazing Butt watercolor last night.

Pretty great, huh?

Josh is sweet, funny and a little bit of a dumpster fire. I wouldn’t have it any other way. 5. Josh

I sure didn’t plan it this way, but somehow I ended up with an amazing life.

I am thankful.

 

Plotting Hope,

Brandon

 

Brandon Davidson is stand-up comic and social media strategist based out of Tyler, Texas. He is a husband, a dad, and a disappointment to many. He used to have to drink to have a good time; now he doesn’t need to have a good time. Follow @brandondavidson on Twitter if you love carbs.

 

Day 18–True love

*Big thanks to Betty Gail Jones for sharing her parents’ true love story with us today on Day 18 of our 28 days of love project. She’s living out her own true love story today with her husband, Mickey, and their love is inspirational to all of us who know them.*

The war was in full swing – I mean the big one, World War II.  Clif was stuck on the family farm and spent most days dreaming of just leaving it.  He had graduated from high school at 16 and spent a hard winter in the CCC camp at Blanchard Springs.  There was no money for furthering his education, and being the youngest, he was needed at home.

Some local folks knew the young people were restless so they would throw get togethers on occasion at their homes.  They would push back the furniture and crank up the phonograph and have a dance.  Clif didn’t really like to dance, but he was desperate for the faces of the other local youth who were in his same predicament.

Clif and Jane

Clif and Jane

He was greeted at the front door by Violet, a pretty dark headed gal whom he had known in school.  She smiled and welcomed him.  He really wanted to command her attention, but she was quickly swept to the dance floor by one of the gents who had come from Peace Valley.  He looked around to see who else might be there.  Quickly his eye was drawn to a tall, thin, dark haired girl who seemed to be surrounded by some other girls with whom he was also familiar.  They were locally known as the Knothole Gang.  He decided to put on his best smile and join them.

He found out that the beauty upon whom he had gazed was actually Violet’s little sister, Jane.  She looked up at him with snapping green eyes and quipped, “Well, if it isn’t little Cliffy”.  Though not impressed with her jab, he was intrigued by her spirit and really liked the way she looked in her red dress as she engaged him face to face.

One thing led to another and soon he realized that joining the Navy would be his way off of the farm and a ticket to an education afterward.  He signed up without a thought.  As many of the sailors did, he gave a last stab at romance.  He loved himself and Jane suited him just fine.  With this realization, he popped the question, “Will you marry me?”

Just about as quickly, she answered with a definitive and quick, “No.  I’m too young to be a widow and you might…well, not come back.”  She was immovable on her answer, and he was mad.  So they parted – he going to the South Pacific on a submarine, and she going to Austin, Texas with a cousin to work.

He found many girls willing to follow and befriend lonely sailors. He would have his picture made with them and send them home.  He enjoyed the female company and would hang out with other sailors and their girlfriends, but still, his heart was in Austin, Texas, and he knew that wouldn’t change.

His submarine pulled into the bombed out Pearl Harbor following the catastrophe there and he quickly made up his mind.  He found a store on the Islands that sold diamonds and liked to take the US sailors’ money.  He purchased the prettiest one he could afford and put it in the mail.

Back in the US, Jane was living it up.  She was working in an egg candling factory and then found a job as a waitress.  She had a lot of time to think about her sailor sweetheart and how things had ended badly.  Mail call was announced at her cousin’s house as he produced a small package – a box.  She could see that it had been mailed from Hawaii and couldn’t get it open fast enough.  Reflections of the diamond facets danced in her green eyes.  He truly did love her, and now that she had had time to miss him, she knew she loved him, too.

The war was over, and as Clif stepped on the banks of the US, his spirits were high.  He had come home to claim his bride and to finally attend college to be an engineer – his hopes and dreams were coming true.  Jane waited anxiously for his train to pull into the sleepy little Arkansas town with her soldier and future husband aboard.

They did, indeed, marry and had four children, of whom I am one.  It is with a grateful heart that I tell this story of love and romance.  They have been a model for me and my siblings to follow – each of whom married and have lived life with our best friends and sweethearts totaling 147 years of happy marriages.   They were happily married for 66 years.  Clif has once again sailed away to a distant land and so now they are apart once more – but not for long.  This time he will be waiting for his lovely green eyed girl from Heaven’s shore.  Perhaps she will arrive in a pretty red dress, who knows… and they will never have to be apart again.

Grateful for a lifetime

*Special thanks to my friend Erin Smith, soon-to-be Erin Jennings, for serving as today’s guest writer.*

Some dream of a wedding of elaborate elegance,
A church filled with family and friends.
He asked me what kind of wedding I wished for,
I said one that would make me his wife…..

This is all that I want; there are no need for whistles or bells.  I don’t require a fancy dress or even a church. The only thing on my mind the last two days is that I want the love my now fiancée and I share together to be recognized by God and stitched together by vows that I know in my heart will never be broken. Some may say when they think of marriage that you are “tying yourself down,” but this is nowhere near how I feel. I could not be happier right now if someone bought me a llama (don’t laugh–it’s been a lifetime dream since childhood). Honestly though, what could feel better than finding someone who makes you a better person, who listens to your fears as they are their own and comforts you likewise? What could feel better than running around with no makeup on and having someone tell you that you’re more beautiful then than any other time? What could possibly make someone feel more “free” than knowing that they are loved simply for who they are and exactly how they are? I can’t think of one single thing.

Can you sense my excitement? I can! My face hurts from smiling (seriously). I feel so very lucky to have found such an amazing counterpart. Seeing that this is not a first marriage for either of us, I have already encountered a bit of speculation as to what makes this different from before…. EVERYTHING. I am nowhere near the same person I was three years ago, or for that matter ten years ago, and I am very proud of this fact. There have been so many things that I have learned in the last few years, and I am certain in saying the same goes for Josh. The biggest thing that both of us acknowledge is that God put us on the path to meeting, and if we continue to make Him a strong presence in our lives, than there is nothing that we can’t handle. Also we both know that trust and being open with each other is a BIG thing. When you are able to talk about anything like best friend, that takes so much pressure off the other person and opens a thousand doors to feeling secure and happy. I might have had to learn some of these things the hard way, but I am so very glad that I have used those experiences to mold myself into a much better person who understands finally what is important in life.

I am so grateful that I have made it to this place. I have never been more comfortable with who I am, and even though I am a continuous work in progress, I now have this amazing man by my side to cheer me on and to whom I hope I am the same bright light and inspiration too. Wow, what a great feeling!!!! What’s even better than the fact he and I are starting a new chapter to our lives together is that it is not just us. We both have the most wonderful children (together it will be three boys and one girl) and supportive families to go along with us. Our families have accepted our engagement with open hearts and arms. I get the feeling that they share equally in our excitement to start our lives together, and this is a major thing for everyone. I am so honored to be able to add a sister, mother, and father in-law to my family soon. These people have made me feel like I am exactly where I belong. I breathe a great sigh of happiness every time I think about it. Not only do I get the most amazing man as my husband, but I also get to inherit this fantastic group of people to add even more support and love to my life. I will get two new nieces as well…… seriously, just color me happy!!

Now I know and am fully aware that no relationship is all roses and butterflies, but with having all these building blocks in place, I also know I am well on my way to a very fulfilling second half of my life. Not only am I getting to marry the person who has quickly become my best friend and closest confidant, but I am getting to add a whole new and wonderful layer to my entire family. I am so grateful to be able to say all of this and mean it from the bottom of my heart. I am so grateful for a love that cares nothing about the past, trust that will lead to a stronger future each day, and a faith that when things get hard I have someone who will hit their knees right next to me. Grateful?….. That just doesn’t seem strong enough a word.