Today I was getting married!
After 6 months of planning, we’d finally be able to enjoy all the work that went into this one day.
When I woke up I thought, this is the last time I’ll ever be sleeping alone in a bed! I would now get to go to bed next to my husband and wake up next to him every morning. How cool is that?
I’m not the type of woman who ever thought I needed to live with my boyfriend to “test the waters” before getting married. Why would I give a marital privilege to a guy who was only committed to me at a boyfriend level?
If you’ve been following my story, you know that one of the challenges in our relationship was that Steve became dad out of wedlock. I firmly believe that children are a blessing regardless of how they arrive, but that posed a major challenge in our relationship.
Part of the reason was, I had been disciplined my whole life with my standards as they related to sex. In dating I had the mentality of why do you think you should get to date me? Of course this wasn’t in an arrogant way, but if I was going to give every single part of my being to someone, you better believe I wanted to be with someone who valued my conviction in these matters.
In all honesty, Steve hadn’t lived his life in the same way. I know that a major part of this was because of how he was raised. He wasn’t raised in a Christian home where these values were taught, modeled or emphasized. Some people live their life in the manner in which they were taught because they think that’s the norm and they don’t know any different. If you grow up in a home where you’re not taught about boundaries, expectations and why they’re important, you’re probably not used to thinking in such a way because it’s normal to do whatever you want in your life and relationships.
I had dated a guy once who called me a unicorn. I laughed when he called me this because I didn’t get it at first. He said, “You know, you’re the girl every guy has heard about but no guy has ever actually met.”
I liked that. I’m a unicorn! That was a major compliment to me. Being disciplined and being a woman of character was worth it in every way. There are still women out there who have high standards, that won’t settle, that love Jesus and that value guys who do the same. I promise it’s worth it to stay true to yourself and your beliefs!
At the same time, just because you’ve had a past you’re not proud of, that doesn’t mean that Jesus won’t redeem you from previous mistakes. Lord knows I’ve done plenty of other things I’m not proud of. Thankfully Jesus forgives this imperfect woman every. single. time. He’ll always do the same for you.
He can take our biggest mess-ups, failures and lapses in judgment to shape our character and mold us into what He wants us to be. Yes, it’s true, some times we have to learn the hard way. We can face, what seems to be devastating consequences, but with God’s strength, we can come out on the other side stronger than ever.
My girls and I met at the church early that morning. My mom did my hair for my wedding. If you remember she’s a cosmetologist, so you better believe I wanted her to do the most important updo in my life! I was the first child to get married in our family. Between my brother, sister and I, we had a bet going. We called it the race to the alter and the first one to get there would get $100 from each sibling.
Now I’m not saying I sped up this process to claim my $200, but I had to laugh when claiming my prize during the speeches at our reception because this former commitment phobe won! It was just a funny little bet between us and of course they thought this runaway bride was far from getting hitched, little did they know they’d have to pay up!
We got married on a chilly Friday in November. I was relaxed about the whole thing. I didn’t care if things didn’t turn out perfectly because all that mattered was that I was marrying my best friend.
We took our wedding pictures before our guests arrived.
It was time for the wedding to start. Our wedding party lined up in preparation for the processional.
I was excited, but I was a wreck! I had envisioned this moment when I’d see my man, my forever, my husband looking back at me as I walked down the isle.
As I mentioned in the previous post, music is something I’m passionate about. The song I was walking in to was called “Make us One” by Cindy Morgan and boy was it a powerful one! One of my best friends, Carie, who was part of our wedding party walked down the isle to that song at her wedding. It was perfect.
It’s the type of song that builds and crescendos perfectly. We timed it just right for the doors of the sanctuary to open, revealing me in my wedding dress as I made my walk down the isle. My family and I listened to that song so many times together before our wedding day and every single time we couldn’t listen to it with dry eyes.
It was time for my dad to walk me down the isle. We hugged, I kissed him on the cheek and tears began to pour down my face. If one didn’t know better, you’d think I was sad about the whole thing because I had the ugly cry going on. That crescendo got me every time I heard that song. All the events of my life led up to this one moment in time. I was in awe reflecting on how God’s divine hand was all over my life and Steve’s too. He had orchestrated things perfectly so our paths would cross and we’d come into each other’s lives at the most opportune time. He needed me and I needed him. Wow. Thank you God!
Making a life-long commitment to get married is no small thing. Today we vowed to love each other forever. “For better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health till death do us part.”
And then our Pastor said, “You may kiss your bride! Ladies and gentlemen, I introduce to you for the first time, Mr. and Mrs. Steve Toms.”
The day of our wedding rehearsal was Thursday November 17, 2011, which also happened to be my parent’s wedding anniversary!
My mom had come down earlier in the week to complete some last minute projects and to run errands for Steve and I. She picked up our programs, decorated our candy bar glassware, and ran supplies to Brackett’s, our reception venue.
I couldn’t believe in just one day, I’d be saying, “I do.” There were so many random times throughout the week as I’d be counting down that I’d just stop and realized, I’m getting married this week.
We had the best wedding party. Seriously, top notch friends and they were good looking! We each had six friends stand for us. I chose my sister Melia, my best friends from back home—Jill, Carie and Michelle, my brother’s girlfriend Lisa (soon to be fiancé) and mine and Steve’s friend Tamara.
Steve’s lineup included Lance, Edog, Cory, Chris, Terry, my brother Keaton as well as Dan, Rod, and Ben. Steve’s best friend Stien was living in California at the time and his wife was expecting around the date of our wedding. Unfortunately he couldn’t be the “best man” in person, he still holds that title. Lance stepped in for the day and fulfilled his role.
We also had a flower girl, Asia and of course JT was our little ring bearer.
Our rehearsal went smooth. Both Steve and I had musically talented friends. Carie practiced her solo “One Thousand Miles” by: Mark Schultz, which would be sung during the lighting of the unity candle. Terry sang “When I Say I Do” by: Matthew West.
Typically I’m a steady person when it comes to emotions. I process things internally and it takes a lot to get me fired up. But then there’s music. It literally takes three notes and something inside me just opens up. Whether it’s the lyrics that touch my heart in it’s deepest places, the melody or a memory associated with the song, my emotions flow uncontrollably with music.
Today was the first time we had heard the two songs we chose for our wedding live. When Steve told me Terry could sing, I had to ask him, “You mean he can really sing, or he likes singing around the house and in the shower?” I just had to double-check to make sure we were on the same page. I knew Carie could sing because I’ve heard her sing dozens of times growing up. Steve confirmed that Terry, could in fact, really sing.
Listening to the lyrics made me realize this was really happening. I mean obviously I knew that, but I mean I was really getting married. I felt so blessed.
Before I was a commitment phobe. If you were to ask my sister, she could probably give you a list of relationships that I’ve ran from in my life.
I remember a time when I was dating guy in high school and he lived about two hours away from me. He gave me a ring, a simple silver band and that was enough to send me running to the hills! I thought, oh my gosh, he thinks I’m going to marry him! Now this ring didn’t come with a proposal nor was it presented to me on one knee, but my mind just ran with it. Needless to say we weren’t together much longer after that. If you’re reading this…sorry about that!
But I wasn’t a runner any more. I had found the one that I could love, trust in, the one who challenged me to be better in every way and the one who made my heart overflow with love. I was ready to open up and share my authentic self with him. Steve always joked with me that I was the rock of Gibraltar, and that he finally cracked me and got me to open up. All I could do is smile at him because I knew he was right. I was so thankful to have found Steve. I had waited a long time for a husband and the journey we’ve had together up until this point was crazy.
We rehearsed that day, one groomsman short. Edog was flying in from California and he missed his flight. Of course he got an earful when he showed up at my house for the groom’s dinner. Pretty boy Hollywood was late; Steve wouldn’t let him hear the end of it.
We had a great time sharing stories that night. I learned more about Steve from his guy friends than I’d known before.
We all said goodnight and it was time for bed.
By this time tomorrow, I’d be Mrs. Steve Toms.
When it comes to love and relationships, we are all affected by our past. Our experiences intentionally and unintentionally set the scene for our futures.
We naturally bring our own preconceived ideas, attitudes, and learned behaviors to the table, right or wrong, and expect to have some degree of unity with our significant other. It’s no wonder relationships struggle when we have unrealistic expectations of one another and fail to acknowledge each other’s fundamental needs.
As an athlete the importance of fundamentals were always stressed to my team by my coaches, regardless of the playing level I was at in my career. I can remember the early days of learning how to play basketball and we’d practice dribbling. Every single practice we’d line up on the baseline and my coach would say, “dribble down with your right hand and back with your left.” I’d take off sprinting as fast as I could, dribbling down the court.
The whole switching to my non-dominant hand thing made me squeamish. I thought, CRAP! I don’t ‘ like dribbling with my left hand!
I’m a right-handed person and if I had it my way back then, I’d choose to dribble with only my right hand. Why? Because dribbling with my left hand was uncomfortable. I lacked the confidence and skill to dribble with my left hand without looking at the ball and of course I wanted to be the first one to the opposite end of the court. I had to win and I didn’t want any of my weaknesses exposed.
Of course the lesson in this extends beyond elementary basketball. To some degree, you may have your own areas in your life in which you must win and you fear being exposed.
We all have our preferred way of doing things. Perhaps you’re particular about how your laundry is done, or how the dishes are loaded into the dishwasher, or what car you drive. I’m willing to bet your preferred way translates into your relationships too. We all have our opinions of how things should be done and what our relationship should look like. Deep inside we want to be right–aka we want to win, and admitting when we’re wrong is hard, because we think admitting a fault means we are weak and it leaves us too open for our liking–exposure.
Hopefully by now you’ve learned in your life that it’s not all about you. There has to be give and take, and a whole lot of compromise.
Just like in sports, you can’t just do things your preferred way because it’s what you know. Your way may not be the best and ultimately your game— or relationship can sufferer because of it.
Steve took the lead and signed us up for our pre-marriage counseling, which consisted of four days of watching the DVD “Love and Respect” by: Dr. Emerson Eggerichs followed by rich group discussions. There were at least eight other couples in our session. Some older than us, some younger than us, and some who by first impression alone, seemed like the most unlikely pairing. Clearly I didn’t know those people just yet, but man, I wanted to know their stories!
We had the opportunity to dive into the ins and outs of marriage with couples who had been married for years. I was excited because I couldn’t wait to hear what these married vets had to say.
We also had to complete a detailed survey before our counseling started that inquired about our beliefs, finances, family planning, and careers, to name a few. We also had to complete weekly worksheets separately and then we’d come together to discuss our answers with the mentor couple that was assigned to us.
Ironically, Steve and I were paired with a former college football teammate from Augsburg. He and his wife would be our mentor couple. It was crazy to see his past come full circle with having his former teammate and his spouse share their marriage wisdom with us.
It felt a little awkward at first disclosing so much information to our mentor couple, but getting married is a huge decision. You have to be willing to talk about the things that are tough and address your differences head-on to give your marriage a solid foundation for all the challenges to come. You don’t want to leave any stone unturned and later be heartbroken because you avoided talking about the hard things. You can’t build a God-honoring marriage on sinking sand.
We were told that this series would help us dive into many aspects of marriage that we may or may not have talked about as a couple and by the end of the series we’ll either be stronger as a couple, or you may not decide to go forth with your marriage.
That was no joke. The leaders had shared that there were in fact former attendees that upon completing pre-marriage counseling decided to forego getting married. Yikes!
That wasn’t going to happen with us. We wanted to have the best marriage possible and we were going to do whatever we could to make it the best it could be.
This adventure was just getting started…
The date was set. We’d be getting married at our church on Saturday November 18, 2011. We had finalized a date and finalized where our reception would be.
Today we went to Brackett’s Crossing Country Club. Steve wasn’t picky about the details of the wedding, but he really wanted the reception at Brackett’s. I figured that was a good compromise in my book. He’d choose the reception venue and I’d pick out everything else.
We invited my sister and my parents to our tasting. We tried several amazing foods and made final selections.
It was crazy to think that in just six short months, we’d be getting married.
I have to admit, I had little freak out moments about getting married post proposal. Of course I never voiced any of that to anyone.
I had dreams about marrying the wrong person, and to be honest, that was a fear of mine. What if I choose the wrong person? There was nothing in my life that had occurred to warrant this fear, but it was present.
Who you’ll marry is one of life’s frequented wonderings. I still couldn’t believe that this question was finally answered for me.
I continued to pray about it and asking God if this was FOR SURE what HE wanted for my life. I already knew the answer and realized this fear was something I was periodically hanging on to and allowing to get in my way.
I often wonder what God thinks about us when we question him and let fear creep in…when that fear is present only later to be found silly to be uncertain about down the road. We submit our prayer requests, give him thanks, and ask him for direction.
Then when He answers our prayers we question if it’s really true and right for us. We question if this is truly “it” because the answer to our prayer looks different than we originally planned. We have our opinion about how our lives should look and God has his. The key is knowing what God’s Will is for our lives and surrendering our will to being open to what He wants for our lives. Hopefully we’re not only open to it, but allowing him to lead.
As Susie Larson wrote in her book Your Beautiful Purpose: God’s Will for you is your best-case scenario.
Notice it doesn’t say “Ashley’s will for her life is her best-case scenario…” or (insert your name here) will for his/her life is his/her best-case scenario.
Any way you slice it, God’s WILL is always the best. This includes the disappointments, heartbreak, illness, uncertainty, etc. Instead of questioning His plan and allowing unwarranted fear to creep in, we have to choose to trust him.
Now me being engaged and having small moments of fear or doubt is one instance where fear ultimately didn’t change my mind or prevent me from being married, but sometimes that’s not always the case. We say “I do” to fear and allow it to rule and take residency in our lives. Your relationship with fear then begins to grow and your relationship becomes intimate. Fear speaks to you in the deepest places of your heart, allowing you to doubt everything you know. Fear will literally set up camp in your life until you decide to do something about it.
This is why reading God’s Word is so important. It’s not so you can check it off your to-do list or so you can feel good about yourself, it is so you are prepared with the belt of truth (Ephesians 6:10-18). Not just any truth, GOD’S TRUTH! This means that we are in the word. We hear it, read it and seek to understand and know God better though His word. The more we get to know Him, the more we can hear His voice above all others. We distinguish truth from lies by knowing who HE is, by getting to know His character.
The Armor of God
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. 19 Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.
My challenge to you is to examine your life and be honest about the roadblocks in your life; those fears that are straight up preventing you from experiencing God’s best.
- What roadblocks have you allowed to set up camp in your mind?
- What situational roadblocks are you allowing to cloud God’s truth?
Dive into God’s Word and see what He has to say about you and your life.
He already knows you, do you know him?
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. Psalm 119:105
It was a Saturday evening, May 14, 2011. Steve had worked that day, just like he did most Saturdays. He started his Saturdays fairly early with clients, and then I would go in to the club and we’d workout together.
After working out we went to his townhome to relax and spend the day together.
The plan was to go to church at 6:00 and then meet our friends Ben and Alyson at Stella’s Fish Café in Uptown.
We had one of those lazy Saturdays; lounging around, watching TV, laughing, and enjoying each other’s company.
“Babe today we have to get to church early at 5:00 to meet up with Pastor Alan to pray before church,” Steve informed.
“Okay,” I said, glancing at the clock. “I need to get ready then.”
I wasn’t quite sure as to why we had this special meeting with Pastor Alan, but I’m all for prayer so I didn’t question it. I went upstairs to his bathroom to change, freshen up and fluff my hair.
Steve eventually came upstairs to get ready. He put on Christian music from Pandora as we got ready.
I finished one last touch, walked out of the bathroom, “okay, I’m ready.”
He looked so good. Steve always looked so handsome. He had on a red polo shirt, his hair was done just how I liked it and as always, he smelled so good!
Steve had a cologne collection, and I’m not talking about four bottles of cologne. I’m talking more like twenty. I had asked him about it, and where the cologne collecting came from. He told me growing up his parents were smokers and he hated the smell. In order to try to cover it up, he would cover himself in cologne.
Gone were the days of living with his parents, but this cologne thing still carried through. Not going to lie, I wasn’t mad about it. There’s something about the way a man smells that makes me melt. If there were a love language for smelling good, I’d add that to my list!
Steve turned down the music. “Babe, we need to pray before we go.”
Pray before we go? I thought that was strange. That wasn’t ever part of our routine before, but I wasn’t going to question what he was requesting. I thought, if my man wants to pray, we’re going to pray.
I fell more in love with him in that moment. I had always wanted to be dating a guy who was a spiritual leader. I have a tendency to want to lead, but I know that in marriage, the wife is not supposed to. That doesn’t make her any less important, that just makes us different. We were designed to have different roles for a reason. If one tries to take on the role of the other, the divine purpose of each spouse within marriage is diminished and your relationship has/will probably suffer as a result.
I know there will be people reading this that might get all “huffy and puffy” hearing me say that. The Bible says: Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.” (Colossians 3:18) and it goes on to say Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.”
I’m a natural leader, but truthfully, in a relationship, I wanted to be led. I don’t want to the leader in my relationship. I want to be cared for, adored, loved and cherished.
There we stood, hand in hand in his bedroom with our eyes closed.
“Dear God, I want to thank you for today, and Lord I want to thank you for Ashley. Thank you for bringing her into my life…”
As I stood there I thought, I like this. Steve is really growing in his faith, he’s praying over our relationship…I melted…
“And Lord I ask that you bless our engagement…”
My eyes popped open! He just said ENGAGEMENT….oh my goodness!
I don’t even remember any of the words after engagement because I was so shocked that came out of his mouth.
He reached into his pocket, took out the ring and he got down on one knee and said, “Will you marry me?”
My heart raced, I looked into his eyes with slight panic, palms sweaty…
As he was on his knees my hands embraced the back of his head as I pulled him in for a kiss. He got teary-eyed and attempted to put the ring on my finger. He couldn’t quite get it on, so I put it on.
I paused for a moment, “Holy smokes we’re engaged!” We kissed again.
“Are we really meeting Pastor Alan?”
“We are supposed to, but it’s okay if we’re not there at 5:00.”
It was after 5:00, I grabbed my purse and we headed out the door. We called our parents on the way and told them briefly that we were engaged! We didn’t have time for long drawn out conversations about all of it because we had to get to church.
As we pulled in, Ben and Aly were driving out of the church parking lot. They were in on the plan and I waved at them and Steve stuck his arm out the window shaking his fist in victory and followed it up with a thumbs up.
We didn’t have time to pray with Pastor Alan before church. By the time we got in praise and worship had already started.
I have to admit I was distracted the whole time. I kept looking down at my new rock and I kept replaying the highlight reel of the whole thing in my mind. I glanced at Steve, we exchanged excited smiles, as he held my hand.
There we were, singing praise to Jesus, embarking on a new adventure as an newly engaged couple.
I glanced over at Steve as he poured out his heart in worship.
Thank you God. Thank you God. THANK. YOU. GOD!
What about you? Did you have a moment when prayer changed everything? I’d love to hear about it.
Share it below!