I’m not sure why we decided to open gifts so early the day after our wedding. Some advice to pending newlyweds, gifts can wait! Sleep in and then go on a honeymoon instead!
Steve and I were completely exhausted! The week before your wedding is so busy. Running errands, crossing things off your to-do list, not to mention all the emotions that come with approaching the biggest day of your life.
Then your wedding day finally comes and then it’s just over and you’re left feeling like, what just happened?
I think all couples should go on a honeymoon, even if it’s just for a long weekend. We didn’t go on a honeymoon as we were in no position financially to be taking any trips. Between the wedding, child support, plus all the added expenses of combining our lives, it just wasn’t possible for us to go. We were okay with not going at the time because we decided we’d go after we had paid off some of our debt.
The day after our wedding was a snowy one. My family stuck around to enjoy brunch and gift opening. It’s insane to think about what it takes to get your life started as a married couple. We were blessed incredibly by all the gifts from our amazing families and friends.
Combining two worlds makes for a whole lot of trial and error, compromise and patience. It’s the ultimate team building experience, except you’re committed for life. There’s no quitting allowed and no switching teammates, at least not in my book.
The craziness continued.
I had my Minnesota Vikings Cheerleader Training Program Holiday Show at the Mall of America the Monday following our wedding. This is an annual event in which the Minnesota Vikings Cheerleaders, the Training Program and MVC All Stars showcase their dances for some holiday entertainment.
I quickly switched from wedding mode to dance mode, practicing and reviewing choreography for the big show.
It was a blast to perform in the Best Buy Rotunda. To make it to that stage was a major accomplishment for me. But honestly I was more proud to look into the crowd to find my handsome husband smiling back at me. Steve was my biggest supporter always and in everything. Which meant the world to me. I didn’t have to battle to convince him of my crazy dream filled ideas. He was all in all the time.
Our life together was going to be incredible. We were two people completely in love, driven and passionate about truly living life, helping others and keeping Christ in the center the whole way. Who wouldn’t want to embark on an adventure like that?
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 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!
It was May 6, 2011 and it was a sunny day. Both Steve and I worked and then I went over to his townhome after work.
I looked forward to days like today because we’d get to spend time with JT. My sister Mel would also be coming over today. Steve, Mel and I spent a lot of time together, and since he was dating me, my sister was part of the package deal.
Mel is a speech language pathologist and she works with 3 and 4 year olds. Any day that Steve and I would have time with JT, Mel was automatically invited. JT loved when she was there. Mel has a gift with kids. Not only did she play with JT, but she’d teach him at the same time.
Steve and Mel had several nicknames for each other. Steve called her doctor, because her initials were MD, but that wasn’t even the best one.
When I was training for a competition Steve was on a similar diet regime. He was doing the same amount of carbs I was on any given day. My sister was my roommate so she knew that this particular day was a zero carbohydrate day for me, which meant no complex carbs.
Mel had just arrived at Life Time to workout and saw Steve sitting in the Life Café She went into the café to say hi and he was eating eggs and had a stack of toast on his plate.
“What are you doing? You’re not supposed to be having toast!” giving him a “gentle” reminder as if he forgot. “You’re on a zero carb day!”
“Don’t tell your sister,” he said with a smirk.
Of course my sister didn’t keep that from me. When she got home she told me all about it and Steve knew that she would.
The next time I was at Steve’s house, we invited Mel over. She walked in the door and greeted him “Hi toast.”
“What’s up Judas?” he joked. She had busted him for eating toast and Mel had narked on him for not following our diet. Those two nicknames stuck from that moment on. Mel wouldn’t let Steve forget that he got caught, nor would he let her forget she was a nark.
There was so much joy when all of us were together. Our time together was always lighthearted and we were either laughing with each other or at each other.
Today Steve, JT, Mel and I went on a walk. I loved going on walks with Steve. He worked very hard at his job and it could be very stressful, so walking was a great way to spend quality time together and he could decompress after his day. Of course we loved it also because we could take JT to the park and get in more exercise.
We walked up to the park and Steve took JT out of the stroller. He couldn’t walk yet so Steve brought him over to the swings and put him in one.
I loved playing with JT, but I also loved to watch the two of them together. I couldn’t help but fall more in love with Steve every time I got to witness him in daddy mode. JT filled Steve up with so much love. He was such a proud dad and he talked to JT so tenderly even though JT couldn’t respond in complete sentences (obviously). It was still as JT knew what his daddy was saying to him. He hung on every word and action of his daddy. He showered him with kisses and told JT that he loved him.
The giggles were contagious. JT squealed with delight shoving his hands in his mouth as Steve pushed him in the swing.
I found myself reflecting in that moment, as I often did when the three of us were together. I thanked God for blessing me with my boys. I was thankful that he humbled me when I thought there could be no way this life could be right for me.
There I was, blessed to have this sweet baby in my life and his daddy.
I couldn’t believe how right Steve was for me. I had dated guys before who I thought they were right for me, and then things changed. I either ended up being broken hearted or realized they weren’t the one for me.
Steve and I shared the same passions and values. He understood my stubborn and quiet side, or maybe he just learned how to deal with it. I loved how he was so selfless in everything he did. Whether it was at work, a random stranger, friends or family, he would do whatever he could to help any one who needed it. I couldn’t help but love his giving heart. He was my biggest cheerleader. He never set limitations on what he thought I could do but supported me in my big ideas and dreams.
For the first time I had felt like I was with someone who appreciated me, all of me. He didn’t try to change me or forced me to be someone I wasn’t. Simply by being Steve Toms, he inspired and helped me to be the “best me.” I loved this man and I had no doubt that he felt the same way about me because he told me every day.
The person you’re with and the person you choose to spend your life with should make you a better you. They shouldn’t detract from who you are or cause you to be less than the person God designed you to be. God didn’t intricately design you so you could pretend to be someone else. God already knows your potential and we need to wake up and realize how amazing He thinks we are.
How Steve made me feel reminds me of one of my favorite motivational movie speeches by Coach Carter, in the movie Coach Carter:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine as children do. It’s not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own lights shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
My challenge to you today is for you to get out of your box and let your light shine! Stop downplaying your God-given gifts and talents. The world needs you to be you. You are ONE OF A KIND.