Author Archives: juliediterrell

I moved!


I wanted to make a quick post to let you know I created a new blog, in case you’d like to follow along! So many reasons for this, but mainly just that I feel like a different person in a different season than the one who wrote Thoughts From Paradise. It seemed right to start a whole new page for the new person.

By way of quick update, God called us to a rather sudden move in the summer of 2016. By Sep 13 of that year, we were getting the keys to our new home just outside of Dallas, Texas. It was an interesting season of watching God clearly close down everything we had been doing in Chiapas, and clear the way for us to move. It was quite surreal. But we’ve never seen Him move in us or our situation as we have in the past 18 months and it’s a thrilling ride! I’ll be writing more about it over on the new blog eventually. I hope you’ll join me for the adventure!

Change is good.


I just spent the last few minutes scrolling through old blog posts. After not much scrolling, I was several years back (that’s what happens when you stop blogging for a year), reading words that seemed familiar, but not me. Isn’t it strange how much a person can change in a short period of time? Maybe it’s just strange to me! But only a couple short years ago, I was not the same person. I felt helpless to change the things in my life that I didn’t like, helpless to confront things in my past that were affecting my present, and helpless to improve the relationships in my life that I knew were not in a healthy place. I don’t know that I had a victim mentality, but I certainly didn’t see myself as capable of changing my world.

Several years ago, a precious friend very gently pointed out something in my belief system that was not at all Scriptural. I was shocked to realize that she was right. Not only that, I started seeing other things in my heart and mind that it simply had never occurred to me to question. Things that I was taught as a child by a teacher I thought I should respect, and just filed away in the drawer of beliefs that I held as my own. Nathan and I began talking about some of these things, and soon became overwhelmed by the sheer number of issues that we held positions on without knowing if they were consistent with God’s heart or not! Many of these things were taught to us by someone that we once trusted, but now realize is way off base. Where would we starting weeding through the years of faulty philosophy? Thus began a very long season of praying “God I just want YOU. I want to know YOU for Who you really are, not for who I’ve been told that you are. I want to know you for myself, not just know *about* you from others’ perspectives. I want TRUTH, not religion. Whatever the cost, weed out the lies I’m believing and replace them with you.”

It has been a slow process. I appreciate so much that God has never flung open the doors of my heart, grabbing at false beliefs and lies left and right. He gently brings up one thing at a time. It’s as if He reaches into that filing cabinet, pulling out one piece of paper, and placing it before me. I typically respond with “what? I’ve always had that one. It can’t possibly be wrong.” He smiles and says “let’s just talk about it.” Slowly but surely, He addresses things that are skewing my view of Him and His heart. Slowly but surely, I am seeing Him as more loving. Less angry. More hilarious. Less boring. More interested in a relationship with me. Less interested in a perfect performance. More concerned with my heart and less impressed with a flawless outward appearance.


In the midst of these realizations, I began praying for change in my physical world as well. After years of living on very little and learning to trust God for every single bill to be paid (He never once left us hanging! Often coming through right down to the penny…) I felt that He had more for us. That this was a season of learning, and it had fulfilled it’s purpose.

Enter Jamberry. It was a whim. A company created by three sisters just for fun and maybe some play money. My sister signed up, and encouraged me to do the same. It never occurred to me that my life was about to change. It seemed like a small investment that could possibly yield enough to give our grocery budget some wiggle room. But a few months later, Nathan and I looked at our bank account and said “we have to stop accepting financial support for our mission work!” Jamberry has been our sole source of income since that day in Feb of 2014. That was just the first of many changes. God has used that little business to open our eyes to worlds of needs, dreams, possibilities, and gifts we didn’t know we possessed. I try REALLY hard to not push the business opportunity on people, but I so desperately want to see if change everyone’s lives the way it has mine! It has been such a God-send on so many levels.

I could write an entirely separate post about the changes that I’ve seen in myself, my family, my finances, my dreams, my passions, and my future in the last year alone. But my FAVORITE of all the changes is my understanding of God and how He feels about me. I feel like He has just begun to give me a glimpse of His heart. The more I see, the more desperate I am to see more. I used to be one who was nervous about change. I was comfortable in my home town, native language, ministry that I understood and felt equipped to handle, and a god who fit neatly in a nice square box that I could tuck in my pocket and access whenever it was convenient. I now see that God likes to change things up to bring us to a new place of reliance on Him alone.

Change is good. I believe and hope that I am standing on the edge of a massive change. And I say bring it. My prayer remains “just give me YOU, God! Change what needs changing.”



It has been so long since I logged into my blog that it took 10 minutes and password guessing just to get here! Ha! I’ve missed you, blogging world. The reason for my loooong absence is slightly long and complicated, but I’ve been motivated to start back up. There is much to catch up on! But for today I just needed to get out a few thoughts that I’ve been mulling over this-morning. I promise I’ll be back for a catch-post ASAP!

Today is Independence Day! It’s always been one of my favorite holidays. But it means more to me this year than ever before. Spending the 4th in another country always makes you appreciate things in a different way, but this is more than that.

Freedom means something special to anyone who has lived in a situation less than free. I’ve never lived under a tyrannical leader, but I did live in slavery to The Law. I was ruled by a list of rules and “standards” and driven by the fear of what might happen if I slipped or accidentally forgot one of the many many rules of the religious system. I laid awake at night wondering if I was doing enough, if I was doing it all right, if I had missed a bullet point on the holiness checklist… if *I* was enough!

Then I found a relationship. An actual back-and-forth conversation with a loving God, Who simply wanted ME. Not my performance or completed checklist, but my whole heart instead. As a result, the outward appearance changed as well. I loved more, was able to forgive more freely, and suddenly was not so concerned about everyone else’s holiness checklist. I was too enthralled with my new relationship!

This is freedom. Freedom to walk and live and love as HE leads. Freedom to change! Freedom to just be who He made me, knowing that He smiles when He sees my heart, and not worrying about what others might think of it. Freedom. Independence from the tyranny of law and fear. Freedom to follow the Spirit where He leads without wondering if it will look bad or sully my perfect image of holiness. Freedom to be me, regardless of who I’m sitting in front of or talking to at that moment.

This is my wish for my friends! That they would find (and choose to accept) freedom, from whatever is holding them captive today.

Happy Independence Day!!!

“It is for FREEDOM that Christ has set us free!” Gal 5:1

apathy and grace


I’ve never clicked that “reblog” button before. I suppose because it’s not often that I read something that absolutely grips my heart, slaps me in the face, and takes my breath away all at once. My friend Christina wrote this, but I could easily have said the same words. Just not as eloquently as she has. If you wonder where I’ve been lately, perhaps this will shed some light? I’ve been wrestling. With the past. With expectations. With questions. With a faint glimmer of what the future could hold. I don’t have many answers, but I can echo my friend here when she says; “I want more. I’d rather engage in a living union than lifelessly assenting to a system of beliefs.”

Christmas `13 at the orphanage report


I’m so embarrassed that I am just now writing this report in February.  I could give you the list of reasons for this ridiculously late post, but that seems a little bit unnecessary. So I think I will instead give you the basic run-down, and if you want more details please feel free to email me!

Due to a variety of changes in our situation and a series of random events, God has led us to a new orphanage! It’s not actually new, because we have known the family that runs it for several years now. But God has only recently led us to start working there. We ended up putting the “Christmas at the Orphanage” funds to good use there (after checking with the donors of course)!

This orphanage used to just be the Dappen family, and they happened to take in a few kids off the street. But in recent years, the majority of the Dappen family moved back to the U.S. and it’s now a full-blown orphanage run by just 2 of the Dappen kids and a spouse! They currently have 22 children in their care, with over half of those being special needs kids. Some of them are very disabled, with need for constant care, braces, wheelchairs or medications. Others just need a little more help than the average child. But without exception, they are all precious!

Cloe playing with a couple of the boys. Precious babies!!!!

Cloe playing with a couple of the boys. Precious babies!!!!

Compared to the other orphanage projects we’ve taken on, the needs the Dappens are facing are much more practical and basic. Such as food, working bathrooms, furniture and rent money. Beyond the basic needs, there is a serious need for extra medical funding. You will be hearing more from me here on this topic soon! But for now, I’ll show you where the Christmas Project funds went.

Water filters, cleaning supplies, non-perishable food,  paper goods, and a little chocolate!

Water filters, cleaning supplies, non-perishable food, forks, soap, bath towels, paper goods, and a little chocolate!

The majority of the boys are living on a ranch, learning and trying to grow their own food. Their living conditions are… how shall I say this… rustic? Very rough. The boys were SO curious about all the soap and cleaning supplies, and wanted to know which ones could be used on their hair. Hehehe! I told them I would bring shampoo next time, but please don’t use the Pine-scented cleaner on their bodies!

It's not the best picture, but we bought 18 blankets (one of their first/most urgent requests), as well as a few kick balls and boxes of mega-blocks.

It’s hard to see in this picture, but we bought 15 blankets (one of their first/most urgent requests), as well as a few laundry baskets, kick balls and boxes of mega-blocks.

Lastly, FOOD! You can probably imagine how much food it takes to feed 3 adults and 22 kids (some of whom are teenagers). Or maybe you can’t? If you have the standard family of 4, just multiply your grocery bill times 5. That’s a lot of food! Especially if you want them to have good food that can help combat the malnutrition they have all arrived with. This, obviously, is an ongoing need. But we did what we could to stock them up for a little bit.

Beans, rice, milk, oranges, cereal, oats, honey, olive oil, eggs, and meat!

Beans, rice, milk, oranges, cereal, canned peaches, oats, honey, carrots olive oil, and eggs!

With the money you gave towards the Christmas fund, we were also able to pay their rent for the month, which was a huge prayer request answered for them. If you are on Facebook, please take a moment to follow the link to “like” and follow their page!

Thank you for being part of this project, and making a difference in these children’s lives. You will not find more deserving or grateful recipients!!

When joy becomes a choice


Sometimes joy doesn’t come naturally.  Sometimes you are awakened 6 times in the night by teething and feverish children, and morning comes far too quickly and the sunlight feels harsh instead of… well, sunny.  Sometimes you are so tired that you attempt to make coffee in your French Press… without putting any coffee in it.  Sometimes you sneak off to the bathroom with your coffee cup, turn on the fan, and just hope it takes the kids a few minutes to figure out that you are simply escaping to a moment of silence and solitude.  What?  Don’t tell me you’ve never done that!

These last few weeks have been rough.  The kind of month that plays a mean game of tug-o-war with your last nerve.  Car accidents (no one was hurt, thank God), losing my wallet in the back of a taxi, being home alone with 4 littles for more than half of the last month, very important relationships suffering heavy strain, and now, the latest development in our saga, the disappearance of money from our lockbox. A lot of money.  We are mystified about that last one.  This all could not really have come at a worse time of year.  November is when I historically start getting very homesick.  The realization has set in: we’re spending our 4th yr in a row in Mexico for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  I think I did better when it was one year here, one year at home in Colorado with my family. It seemed less traumatic.  At any rate, I’m trying to line up activities, traditions, outings with the orphans, fun food, new crafts, and all manner of things to make these next 2 months more joy-full and less homesick.

Then the unexpected happens.  One thing after another.  Just when I think I’m recovering emotionally and psychologically from one blow, here comes a new one.  I admit, once I had a moment of silence today (I will neither confirm nor deny my whereabouts in the house when this moment occurred), I whispered through a choked back tear, “really God??? Why? Why right now?”

I just remembered the lyrics of a song that says “When you can’t see His hand, trust His heart.”  I don’t doubt for a moment that God is in control.  I don’t doubt that He is orchestrating every day of our lives, no matter how chaotic they seem to us at times.  I know this.  I’ve seen enough miracles in my relatively short life (especially in the last 8 yrs on the mission field) to readily acknowledge that God is real.  God is big.  God is intimately involved in our lives.  He cares about the details.  He is concerned with what concerns us.  I know!  But sometimes I don’t feel it.

People-to-people  relationships can be like that sometimes too, right?  Sometimes you have to remind yourself of what you know to be true, whether or not it *feels* true at the moment.  You have to choose to believe the best of your spouse, whether you feel like it or not.  Maybe you have to choose to believe that person didn’t *mean* to hurt you with the thoughtless words or actions.  Don’t assume that a lack of communication from a friend or family member is the same as a lack of love.  Assume the best.  Choose to love.

Today I’m choosing faith.  I choose to believe that God is doing something through all these weird things going on lately.

I choose to open my eyes to the blessings surrounding me.  The paintings of oddly formed butterflies on my fridge, the play-dough models of horses (I admit, I thought it was supposed to be a dragon), the perfect white calla-lily growing out in the yard, the stifled giggles and whispers escaping from my little girls’ room after the lights have been turned out for the night, the perfect aroma of coffee, the sparkle in William’s eyes… beauty.   Abundant blessings that I too often ignore for the busy-ness or refuse to acknowledge because I am *so* occupied with my pity-party.

I choose GRACE.  I choose to be a conduit that God can use to love on my kids.  I will not refuse the grace that He is attempting to give me for each moment by dwelling on the thoughts that steal my peace.

Tonight, I’m choosing joy.  Not because my situation is fantastic, or my finances stellar, or my marriage perfect, or my children well-behaved with nicely trimmed finger nails… but because I can.  Because over and over again in Scripture, joy is related to being in God’s presence.  THAT’S what I want.  That’s what I *can* do something about.  I’m learning to live my life in His presence.  I’ll letcha know when I have figured out how to do this perfectly (don’t hold your breath).  For now, I’m loving this journey.  And I’m banking on the promise Jesus gave in John 15 when He said “abide in me… your joy will be complete!”  That sounds good to me.  Complete joy.  Count me in.

Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy. Psalm 126:2-3

A small collection of the blessings I noticed today

A small collection of the blessings I noticed today

Christmas `13 at the Orphanage


It’s that time again!  Time to talk about what is quite possibly my favorite project, every year.  Christmas at the orphanage!!


Christmas has been my favorite holiday for as long as I can remember. As I was reflecting on what we could do for the orphanage this year (our fourth year in a row to do this with Casa Hogar Canaan), I had an idea. Part of what brought this project about 4 yrs ago was the realization that this wonderful holiday doesn’t necessarily hold wonderful memories for so many children.  Especially children who have been through some of the heart-wrenching things that these kids have been through. I would like to change that. So instead of flooding their space with a bunch of STUFF, I would like to give them some really fun memories.

Casa Hogar family

Casa Hogar Canaan family

The logistics are still being worked out. But here is my idea. Right now, Casa Hogar Canaan is home to 20 orphans. I would like to take them out in groups of 4-5 kids. We will spend the day with them, let THEM choose a toy or clothing item that they love (each child would have an allotted amount of money available to them) , take them out to eat, come back to our home for cookie decorating, games, a Christmas movie, popcorn, and a sleep-over! If we have enough funds, I would like to get each of them a loaded toiletry bag to unwrap, as well. While this new plan may take more of our time, I don’t think it will cost any more money. And I believe the memories will be longer lasting than what we’ve done in the past. (If you would like to see the reports from the last 3 projects, click here!)


Here are the details. If you want to help (even $5 would go far!) you can do so 2 different ways. Send a check to our church with “Orphanage Christmas” in the memo line:

Redeemer Baptist Church

18800 E. Iliff Ave,  Aurora, CO  80013

OR you can use paypal and transfer funds to:

If you don’t have anything to give, we understand that too. Maybe you could help by posting this link to your Facebook or Twitter? Or perhaps your church or other small group would like to get involved? Whatever it is, just know that you won’t be sorry. Being a part of this project is something I look forward to SO much every year. These children are precious and deserve every good thing we could possibly give them!

I can’t wait to see what God is going to do through you this year!!

James 1:27… “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans…”

The gift of Gab… 6 yrs!


Every few months, someone brings up the topic of Gabi’s birth.  Nathan and I laugh at the funny memory, and then someone will ask to hear the story again.

Remember in the cartoon movie, Monsters, Inc. when a human child’s sock makes it into the monster world on accident?  Everyone runs around in a panic, yelling “2319!!! We have a 2319!”  A child (or something belonging to a child) had entered the monster world.  Well the moment Gabi was born, my wonderful doctor handed her to me and said, “Time of birth: 2319.”  I laughed outloud, in the middle of catching my breath, and several people in the room stopped to look at me.  I’m sure they thought I had lost my mind.  Just 2 minutes earlier, I had an oxygen mask on my face because I was starting to pass out in the middle of the transition contractions.  Maybe they thought I had suffered some kind of oxygen deprivation?  Anyway, they stopped and stared.  I continued to chuckle as I said “there’s a child in the monster world! Remember? 2319?”  Nathan smiled as he realized what I was saying, and the chaos of a hospital birth resumed.  Truly, I had no idea what a sweet, gentle, loving, precious light our Gabi would be in this monster world.

From the moment she was handed to me, she began staring into my eyes with those baby blues! I melted then, and I melt now.

From the moment she was born, she began staring into my eyes with those baby blues! I melted then… I melt now.

1 yr old! And just as sweet as ever.

1 yr old! And just as sweet as ever.

Gabi's 2nd birthday. Actively winning everyone's hearts!

Gabi’s 2nd birthday. Actively winning everyone’s hearts!

3 yrs old! She consistently melts us with her sweetness.

3 yrs old! She consistently melts us with her sweetness.

Her 4th birthday.  How we love that timid smile!

Her 4th birthday. How we love that timid smile!

5 yrs old, and suddenly not a toddler. But a little girl!

5 yrs old, and suddenly not a toddler. But a little girl!

Every year on each of the kids’ birthdays, we take them on a birthday date.  They get to choose where we go.  Gabi chose tacos and ice-cream!

ice cream tacos

As we ate, I decided to ask Gabi a few questions.  Here are her delightfully Gabi-like answers!

Me: What happened on your last birthday?

Gabi: I turned 5. I don’t remember what I had. When I woke up I went out the door and I thought there was aliens! But they were balloons hanging in the door!! It was funny. Oh and then Miss Jessica made me pancakes and sausage cuz you were at the hostabitle having William! And now we’re birthday buddies cuz he was born on my 5th birthday! OH! And then I got to spend the whole weekend at Mimi and Papas house and it was super fun.

Me: What did you learn this year?

Gabi: I learned how to swim and hold my breath under water. I sorta learned to read, too.

Me: What do you want to learn this next year?

Gabi: I want to learn to ride a bike. Oh and skate! And science.

Me: What are you going to be when you grow up?

Gabi: A science girl and a gymnastics girl. Cuz it’s cool to do tricks and stuff. I really enjoyed being 5. It was a great year.

Gabriella Joy, the world was blessed with extra sweetness and beauty the day you were born.  I am humbled at the responsibility, and honored by the privilege of being your mom.  I can’t wait to see what amazing things God is going to do in and through you this year!

Chiapas-grown coffee give-away!


*** Thank you for your entries! Lora Jacobson won (and already received) her 1 lb bag of Carajillo coffee! ***


You asked for it!   When I asked my Facebook friends  a few weeks ago what they would like to see me give away on my blog, the answer was loud and almost unanimous.  Coffee!!!


But I’m not just giving away any old bag of coffee.  This is Chiapas coffee.  Chiapas is famous for it’s coffee, internationally.  Have you ever noticed the “Shade Grown Blend” at Starbucks?  Yeah, that’s Chiapas coffee.

Meet Don Victor. He is the head coffee grower for the cafe I love!

Meet Don Victor. He is the head coffee grower for the cafe I love!

I used to buy my coffee from Cafe Selva (and if I’ve ever brought you coffee from here before, it came from there).  I liked the idea that they worked with local farmers and such.  Come to find out, most of the cafes here do!  Haha!  That’s what happens when coffee-growing is a huge industry in your state, I guess.  But recently, I’ve been less impressed with Cafe Selva.  One cup I got tasted burnt.  Another had sortof a rancid taste.  And then someone introduced me to Carajillo.

Oh yeah. Life is a party in San Cristobal!

Oh yeah. Life is a party in San Cristobal!

See those bags in the doorway?  That’s what I’m giving away!  But I must warn you.  Even if you aren’t a coffee drinker, this coffee has the power to convert you.  Just the smell of the bag is enough to make the most avid tea-drinker say “oh okay, I’ll try a small cup.”  I’m not even kidding.  It’s that good.  And I will send you half a kilo of the stuff.  For free.

Here’s what you have to do to be entered into the drawing.  Just post a comment at the bottom of this post, stating your preference of either ground bean or whole!  Yep, that’s it.  I will tell you that coffee DOES have a shelf life!  All coffee!  Whole bean coffee has a longer shelf life (3 months) as opposed to ground coffee (3 weeks).  Of course you can drink it after that, but the BEST flavor and aroma will be found within that time frame.

Want an extra entry in the drawing?  Share the link to this give-away on your Facebook page (and let me know you did it), and I’ll put your name in the hat again.   I’ll be going to the U.S. next weekend (and buying your coffee the day before I leave), and I’ll send your bag as soon as I can!  So we’ll run the give-away until next Friday (Aug 23rd).  Good luck, and happy posting!   🙂


**Just so we’re clear, Carajillo has no idea who I am.  They aren’t sponsoring this give-away.  I’m buying it from them, to give to you.**

The story of us :: Part 12 – afterthoughts


Ever since I hit “publish” on Part 1, I’ve been getting messages from people.  Strangers, friends, acquaintances… here are some of the questions I’ve gotten:

*Will you use that home-school program with your kids?

*Why did you stay in that home-school program if it was so bad?

*Do you resent your parents for any of the hard parts of your story?

*Are you going to allow your children to date?

*Would you recommend this courtship thing for everyone?

*Do you think your marriage has been harder because of the method you used and the fact that you didn’t know eachother very well?

*Do you feel like you missed out on anything by not dating?

Wow.  Talk about a bunch of loaded questions.  But I promised that I would answer them as best as I could.  If you don’t get a question answered to your satisfaction, write me again.  I’ll keep trying!

In regards to the program (Advanced Training Institute):  No, I will absolutely NOT be using this program or anything related to it or produced by it.  There is so much that I could say on this topic, but maybe that’s another post for another day.  For now, I will say that in the last few years as I’ve really spent time looking objectively at what is being taught and modeled by ATI, and it’s effects on myself and my peers, I’ve found it to be incredibly contrary to Scripture.  Sometimes it’s subtle things being pushed on naive young people (most often in “apprenticeship sessions” where there are no parents present) , sometimes it’s blatant misuse and twisting of Scripture.  I have a lot of friends who also grew up in ATI who have worked hard  to compile their own experiences and thoughts on the matter (I have contributed a bit, where I could).  If you are interested in learning more about the program, this is where I would direct you:

Why did I stay so long?  That one is complicated.  The biggest reason is probably because I was taught (by the program, ironically) that this program was the only godly option.  College was strongly discouraged as a dangerous idol and threat.  ATI was the only viable option presented to us, and I bought it hook, line and sinker.  I remember my dad asking once if I wanted to go to college, but I couldn’t think of anything that I would love to study.  I’d rather travel and “give God my youth” anyway.

Do I resent my parents?  Absolutely not.  I truly believe they have always done their best to give us great opportunities and learning experiences.  When we started homeschooling, there were not half as many curriculum options as there are now.  I can definitely see how ATI would appeal to parents as a “fool proof” method and Christian curriculum.  Besides, that Scripture verse (Romans 8:28) that talks about everything working together for our good?  It applies here, too.  If not for those years in ATI, I might not have met Nathan or the hundred other wonderful friends along the way.  In short, I love my parents to pieces and am so thankful to call them mine!

Can I roll two of those questions into one?  Am I going to allow my children to date, and would I recommend courtship to everyone?  Here is my answer: God doesn’t do cookie-cutters.  My hope for my children is that they will follow God.  My greatest desire to is raise adults who can hear from God for themselves and have the wherewithal to be obedient to His voice alone.  I have no desire (nor do I see it as being remotely Scriptural) to be the voice of God in their lives!  I’m quite certain that the Holy Spirit can speak to them as easily (perhaps more so)  as He speaks to me.  So if that means that God leads them to date the man of their dreams before they get married, I believe it’s possible to do that in a God-honoring way.  Courtship is not the answer to the world’s problems.  In fact, in many instances that I’ve witnessed with my friends, it can be even more dangerous and painful than a dating relationship.  But even if it’s done “right” and ends well, I have seen many negative effects.  The first of which is probably pride.  I’m sure you’ve heard it, too.

“My daughter has never kissed a man in her whole life!  She is PURE and WHOLE and has worked so hard to maintain that status!”  Or maybe “We saved our first kiss for our wedding day.  It was hard, but we did it.”  Or even “We have committed to not even touch until we are married.”  It often reeks of a list of human accomplishments.

At the same time, the rules and standards and “ideal courtship” has produced so much guilt and shame.  Because who among us can honestly avoid crushes through our teenage and young adult years?  I certainly couldn’t.  But I felt such horrible guilt over them!  So in order to maintain the appearance of absolute purity, you pretend.  There’s your next bi-product… deception.

The piece of the typical courtship model that I *do* like is parental input.  Notice I did not say parental *control*.  By the time my children are old enough to be considering marriage, I do hope that we will have a relationship of mutual trust and respect.  I will not be demanding obedience or submission from my adult daughters!  I pray that they will feel free to ask for mine and Nathan’s opinions and counsel regarding any man that catches their eye, but that they will be able to pray about it and decide for themselves.  I *do* like that the typical courtship model includes more group settings and family involvement.  Because that’s real life.  One-on-one trips to the theater are not the best for determining a person’s true character.  But toss him into the middle of a family game night and you may get a better glimpse. 😉

I could go on and on about this topic.  But hopefully my point is already made.  I think courtship *can* be good.  I think dating *can* be good.  But mostly, I think that God has to lead it.  There is no formula for a perfect marriage.  There is no cookie-cutter for a safe and pain-free journey to the alter.  How can you learn to love without making yourself vulnerable?  I love this quote by C. S. Lewis… “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless–it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.

Do I feel that my marriage has been more difficult because of the method we used?  That’s rather impossible to answer, seeing as I’ve never been married before and have nothing to compare my experience to!  But the issues that we faced early in our marriage were, in my opinion, more easily attributed to the long-distance relationship.  Like I mentioned half-way through Part 10, I did a terrible job of addressing issues that came up during our engagement.  Because it’s easier to just get off the phone and not bring it up again.  Guess what… you can’t do that once you’re married!  So that was (maybe it still is) a learning experience for us.

Do I feel like I’ve missed out on anything by not dating?  Yes, sometimes I do.  Sometimes I wonder if my marriage would look different if we had met, been able to develop a friendship, allowed to have a crush, fall in love, THEN commit to a lifetime together.  However, that coin has another side.  Our relationship has been about commitment from the very beginning.  I committed to love Nathan long before I *felt* any love for Nathan.  It was never based on feeling.  So I wonder if that doesn’t give us more stability when our marriage hits a rough patch or dry spot, as all marriages do.

I do not regret the crushes I had before Nathan came along.  There were plenty of them!  But each one taught me something about myself.

I most *definitely* do not regret saving myself physically for Nathan alone.  Not one iota.  And I’m thankful that he kept himself for me, as well.

The point of me writing out our story, in as much detail as I could recall, was not to fling another “this is how it’s done” article into cyber-space.  There are already way too many of those floating around.  The *very last* thing that we want is for anyone to read our story and say “that’s how it ought to be done.”  God doesn’t use cookie-cutters.  One of the things I like about our story is how delightfully different it is.  God wrote it that way.

My #1 goal in writing all of this was for my kids.  Because I remember asking my parents to tell me their story.  Many times.  I always wanted more details!  Maybe it’s built into our DNA.  We love a good story.

A piece of our 6-month long honeymoon. Teluride, CO!

A piece of our 6-month long honeymoon. Teluride, CO!

Over the years, people have told us to write our story and publish it.  We have always resisted, because of our hesitation to become a cookie-cutter.  But when I recounted the story to someone who asked a few months ago, I was disturbed at how hard I had to think to recall certain parts.  That did it.  I started writing the next day.  This is God’s story.  He orchestrated it from long before we met, until now.  I don’t want any more details to be lost!

We’ve been married over 10 yrs!  It’s safe to say we’re getting better with age.  We have more fun together, are more comfortable together, love eachother more, we’re better at supporting eachother and resolving conflict, and… well… everything has gotten better.  I will be forever grateful for God giving me Nathan Terrell, and am SO looking forward to the next 10 yrs!

Even more in love than before. April 2013

Even more in love than ever before. April 2013