cheers to 2013

Tinsel-2013This past year has been one of enormous blessings and huge transitions.

In January, I began student teaching freshman and learned so much about applying my college education about teaching to actually interacting with students in a real school.  It was a wonderful experience, and I still miss many of the students I met there.

student_teaching

Then, in March I married my best friend and the love of my life during our Spring Break wedding.  I also gained wonderful family members in my in-laws.

IMG_0212

family

Tanner and I went on the perfect honeymoon to Oregon that he planned completely by himself as a surprise for me.

honeymoon

Next, I graduated from college in May!

graduation

In June, Tanner and I made the most spontaneous decision of our lives and adopted our precious puppy Poesy from the Humane Society.

poesy

We went on many adventures in the summer, from traveling to Arkansas and Austin, to celebrating birthdays with friends and teaching summer school.

arkansas

pool_party

My summer vacation ended in August with the start of the school year and my first real job teaching English III and ESL at a local high school – which has been one of the most difficult challenges in my life so far, but also a source of much growth and so much learning!

For our first married fall, we started some new autumn traditions, and Poesy graduated from her Puppy Class!  She also celebrated her first Halloween in style.

puppy_class

poesy_hot_dog

This winter, I’ve had the blessings of spending so much time with family, and Poesy experienced her first snow!  Tanner and I also celebrated our first married Christmas!

family

snow

tanner

It has been one of the most difficult, yet also the most beautiful and most fun year of my life! I’m sad to say goodbye to such a wonderful year, but I’m already thanking God for the blessings of 2014.

What are some of your favorite memories from 2013?

our first noel

first_christmas

As always, it’s so hard to believe that Christmas is already here, and that in just another week it will be a new year.  After celebrating my birthday this month and thinking about the year to come, I’ve been reflecting on the past year of my life.  It has been filled with so many adventures – getting married, renting my first apartment, graduating from college, starting my first job, getting a puppy, and more.  I’m constantly reminded of the idea that the older you get, the more challenging and busy life becomes, but the more new blessings God brings.

This winter season, I’ve loved celebrating the holidays with my new little family for the first time.

christmas_tree

One highlight of the month has been creating a Christmas tradition with Tanner inspired by A Beautiful Mess – 12 Dates of Christmas.  Instead of exchanging presents, we each planned six dates that we would open every day.

dates

It’s been a special time of being together and making memories.

until death do us part

As Tanner and I planned our wedding , we both agreed that our vows were the most important part of the ceremony.  For this reason, we decided to write our own (we read from the books pictured above for the ceremony).

First, we both researched wedding vows individually and collected our favorite lines and added some of our own.  Then we shared with each other the words we had recorded.  (This was probably the most interesting phase of the process, since Tanner’s closing line was “You are the droid I am looking for.”)  Next, we decided on the major themes – yes, I am an English teacher – that we found in both of our vows.  Because we still wanted to share the words through our own communication styles, we each worded our vows a little differently, while still expressing the same ideas.

Through his research Tanner had come across couples who intermingled their vows by each reading a phrase at a time, instead of the complete vows separately.  We both loved the idea, so here are the final words we spoke to each other as the promise that marked the beginning of our life together:

I, Tanner, in the presence of God, our family, and our friends, take you, Meagan, to be my wife, my bride, and my best friend. 

I, Meagan, in the presence of God, our family, and our friends, take you, Tanner, to be my husband, my partner, and my best friend. 

You are a gift - a gift that I receive from God and your family.  And I acknowledge all of your strengths and weaknesses, just as you acknowledge mine.

I am so excited to receive you as a gift from God, acknowledging your faults and your strengths, as you do mine. 

I vow to give you the absolute best of myself in poverty and wealth and in sickness and in health.  I will seek God humbly and be led by Him as I lead our family. 

 I commit myself to you from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness, and in health, and I vow to seek God by your side in each of these circumstances.  

I will lay down everything for you, to serve you.

I will try in every way to be worthy of your love and to serve you with grace and humility. 

While today I dedicate myself to you formally, every day in the future I choose to dedicate myself to you in every act, every word, and every thought.  I will fight for our marriage until the day we meet our Savior.

Today I dedicate myself to you formally.  For every day of our future, I choose to dedicate myself to you in each act, each word, and each thought, and to fight for our marriage until the day we meet our Savior.

vows

As I reread these words, I am reminded of what a challenge marriage is and will be, but also how beautiful a gift it is that God created and has given me to experience.

wedding bliss

I experienced one of the most beautiful and life-changing days of my life almost three months ago, on March 9, 2013: my wedding day.

Our wedding, as probably all weddings, did not go exactly as I had planned or imagined, but it exceeded my expectations in how beautiful and special it was.  It was meant to be an outdoor wedding to take place under a gorgeous oak tree next to a lake, but it rained all day (although it did pause long enough for us to take some pictures outdoors!).  We moved the ceremony indoors to the building on the property where the reception was planned, and the best word I can think to describe it is perfect.

I’ll share more about the details in future posts, but what I want to share today is what most surprised me about that day.  As my newlywed husband, Tanner, and I were driving away that evening, the overwhelming emotion we both shared was GRATITUDE.

Gratitude for the love for each other that God had placed in each of us to share, gratitude for our families who all shared in the joy of our union, and gratitude for our amazing friends who served us wholeheartedly in the months, weeks, and days all leading up to our wedding.  Because of how grateful we felt, as we drove away from our reception, we both shared our excitement of coming back from our honeymoon to in return serve our friends and family.  

Although I had expected to experience love, joy, and laughter on my wedding day, God surprised me by teaching me a lesson about selflessness and servanthood.  I feel so blessed that my wedding serves as an inspiration – an inspiration to love and to serve as Jesus taught, and as He did.