I Said Yes!

Yes, we are engaged! He proposed and I said, “of course!”

James said he couldn’t wait any longer to NOT be engaged to me, so he proposed the very first day I was back for my summer visit! He got me outside with the ruse of “taking pictures” and dropped on one knee with the ring in hand. I knew he was going to propose this visit, but I didn’t think he’d do it within the first hour of getting home. My surprise in all the pictures is from seeing the ring, which surpassed all my expectations! He slipped the ring on my finger and then we both honestly completely forgot the entire experience haha! It happened so fast that we both can’t remember it hardly at all! The rest of the day was making phone calls to my family and a few select friends and texting others.

The last two weeks together have been wonderful in so many ways, and I’m dreading my flight home tomorrow afternoon. Long distance has always been hard and it definitely really sucks; sometimes it feels like I lead a double life, with a dating life in one state and a single life in another. Thankfully, this visit I get to fly home with a ring on my finger, and I truly hope and think that this daily physical reminder will help this last year or so apart be easier. We don’t have a date set, we first will be planning, then moving me to Georgia. James will also be finishing college before we are able to set a good date. Lord willing, though, we’ll be in the same state and closer than ever to married life within a just a couple years.

The ring was his great-grandmother’s, with a wedding band that goes with it that I will eventually also get to wear. It is over eighty years old (think 1930s) and incredibly unique due to when it was created. The band has so much little detail to it that I adore. We’re unsure if it’s white gold or platinum in the middle around the diamond, but I love how unique that is too. Honestly, the ring took my breath away when I saw it for the first, it sparkled in the afternoon sunbeams, and it’s so pretty to look at. I have been showing it off to all the family and friends I’ve seen here and everyone has all said how unique and gorgeous it is, which has made me so happy.

The best part about it, however, is just how important it is to the Corley family and how deep it is in their history. The fact that they all wanted James to give it to me is an incredible honor; like they’re placing their bets on me by letting me wear something so precious to them. It makes me feel so loved and accepted and wanted. 

The last two and half years of long-distance dating has been a crazy one. Sometimes it has been hard, whether its simply missing each other so badly or when every single coworker I have questions my choices, doesn’t take us seriously because “you’re not having sex/not living together/you’re probably getting catfished/you don’t live in the same state” etc etc etc. Good times. Between the two of us, I’ve definitely had it worse when it comes to unsupportive people who couldn’t simply smile and say “good for you” when I said, “Yes I have a boyfriend, he lives in Georgia.” Thankfully, in my recent job I’ve been incredibly supported by bosses and coworkers alike in my relationship and its been nice. But its things like this, ON TOP of being sperated from my favorite person in the world for eleven out of twelve months of the year, that have often made this a very bumpy frustrating road.

Long distance is not for everyone, that is for sure. It is only for the committed, the ones truly in love, the ones who would rather gut out the pain with the hope of being together. You gotta be ready to tough it out, cry sometimes, skype a lot, and be honest and communicate quickly.

At any rate, it feels good to have made it so far since we met 7 years ago and I’m thrilled to continue pursuing my relationship with James for forever now. I’m really looking forward to when we’ll be living in the same town together, and build towards getting married and starting our own little household. I wouldn’t want to start one with anyone else on earth.

I’m the luckiest and happiest woman in the world! I love you so much, James! Thank you for loving me too!!!! ❤ ❤ ❤

~Jamie

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How dare you. || Diamonds and Divorce

As a child, I remember flipping through my parent’s wedding album. It was right beside all the family albums, so every once and awhile I’d pull it out. It was strange to see my parents before I was even a thought. I remember my mom saying once I didn’t have to worry about them ever getting a divorce.

During my teen years, their marriage was very rocky; they were separated twice, once for two years before the divorce could be finalized in 2015. Long and short of it is simply that it was a wreck of a time. Everyone we knew in our religious social circles, which was our only social circles, fought my mother for pursuing the divorce, even though our home life was so bad that we all were dying.

No seriously, I described it as though she, I and my sister were all drowning in front of everyone, but everyone was more worried about saving the boat of marriage which we had fallen off of, instead of us. YES. THAT’S WHAT IT FELT LIKE. LIKE NOBODY CARED THAT WE WERE IN SO MUCH MENTAL, EMOTIONAL, AND PHYSICAL STRESS THAT IT DIDN’T MATTER BECAUSE OH GOSH, THE SANCTITY OF MARRIAGE COMES FIRST. YES. WE WERE REALLY PUT THROUGH THIS FOR MULTIPLE YEARS. IT WAS HORRIBLE.

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We have grown through that part of our lives now and we don’t speak to any of those people anymore thankfully. We are happier, stronger, and much better off than before.

But before I move on, I’d like to pause one moment here and do something I’ve wanted to do but haven’t felt free to say before. I want to give a very personal shout out to all those people who chose an ideal over individual souls that were suffering: SCREW. YOU. 

I have absolutely no regrets in saying that to every last one of you because I have an absolute right to be angry that the Christian church treated us that way. Thanks for watching us nearly drown, thanks for all the commentary on how we should have just submitted more, thanks for not seeing us and simply seeing an idea that you had to uphold. Thank you all And Screw. Every. Last. Damn. One. Of. You. Goodbye and Good Riddance.

Now that y’all have some context of my past, here’s what I want to talk about tonight.

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I remember in 2013, when my parents separated for the second time, that I was reading the little blogs of the church girls I only sorta kinda knew, girls that attended the sister church of my own. I remember courtship and marriage were discussed on and off again on these blogs. And one day, I was so utterly shocked when I read a comment on one post in particular.

The blogger, a girl I had seen at church family camp multiple times, had asked the question “what are the questions you should ask to know who’s right for you”, blah blah blah, that whole conversation. The top comment was by a girl I didn’t know personally but I’d seen her comment a lot on these blogs often. She seemed to hold similar beliefs that we all held. But in her comment, she literally stated, “I wouldn’t marry someone who had parents who had divorced.”

I was shocked. Because my parents were getting a divorce right then. And yet at the time, I held all the same beliefs this person had. But someone like-minded found that despite this, the fact that I now came from a divorced home was a complete disqualifier for Godly marriage? Not because of something an individual has done but for something their parents have done?

I was shocked, mortified, and horrified.

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The owner of the blog agreed with the commenter’s general comment and I realized maybe a lot of people in the social circle I was stuck in must probably agree. Oh my gosh. It was a cruel realization. It was something I’d NEVER thought of myself, and so to have this dawning realization that my peers, who thought similar to me, would view someone like me, a child of divorced parents, as damaged or unworthy or unfit or unable to be of any value for marriage, was awful.

Tonight I remembered that comment again. I even did some link-hopping to find the original blog and screencap the comment itself, because for a bit I wondered if I had really read such an awful thing. I really had, sadly, and it made me so angry tonight.

I want to respond to this person’s statement. Having gone through a good recovery period from my parents’ divorce and being two years strong into my own romantic relationship, I have a few things to say! And I’m sorry that this post has already come off as very personal and emotionally driven, but this is on my heart to speak up about tonight. So here we are and here I go.

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I have a few things to say as a young adult who thought her parents would always be together, then watched it all burn up in flames, and have seen my family grow out of it better off. I have a few things to say about how it has influenced how I view marriage and love itself and how I think it’s done the opposite of making me an “undesirable” choice for marriage. I have a few things to say in defense of the people who grow through the hardship of divorce too.

The thing about me is that despite everything I have been through, and I’ve been through SOME SH*T, my positivity hasn’t been killed yet. It’s only grown, because I have a lot hope today because of my family’s divorce. I still STRONGLY believe I can have a successful marriage myself. I have not given up on true love. I refuse to give up on love.

And yet some people would call me unsuitable? Really? I have learned so much though!

I learned from my parents’ divorce that no marriage can work if both sides aren’t communicating honestly. Therefore, for my future marriage, I must always be honest, I must ALWAYS communicate how I feel, never sweep anything under the rug, and I must be open to listening to my partner’s needs. Boundaries MUST be discussed, reinforced, and embraced for the health of both sides, throughout the marriage. Both sides MUST be willing to listen, to accept, comfort, reassure, to BE OPEN. I know and agree with my mother’s choice to pursue a divorce…because if none of these things are being done on both sides, then, in my opinion, this is no suitable relationship to remain in, much less even be deemed a marriage. It is toxic. One person cannot make a marriage work alone.

BECAUSE OF THIS EXPERIENCE, I know what I need to look for in my partner! I know what I must do to avoid repeating that mistake! I’m aware of issues that can happen and can be proactive against them!

Can you still say, dear commenter, that I’m not a good choice for marriage?

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I learned that when you love someone, you put them above yourself….but always in a two-way street situation. If you are giving your all to someone who is simply taking taking taking…..that is abuse on their part. That is not loving. You should remove yourself from that situation if it cannot be rectified within a period of time. Because while you do love others, you must also love yourself. You must be able to remove yourself from poisonous situations because God loves you and doesn’t want you to be abused like that.

Seeing this, I have learned to love deeply, but not ignorantly; not giving my heart away to just anyone but to someone who is making as much effort as I am. My best friend whom I’m dating, I choose to date because he gives and loves me above himself, just as I do him. I want to see this consistently as we date, so before I agree to any marriage proposals I know that we are committed to fighting for each other, because we will have built trust that we are doing so RIGHT NOW. I know what to look for in a martial partner now because I saw what marriage is not.

Would you still hold my parents’ divorce against me, commenter?

I can understand someone being afraid of a divorce pattern repeating if they marry someone who’s experienced it in their life….but to completely cross out any options because of it, is cruel and completely removes potential people who might have learned a lot from their past. Why can’t we talk through this issue like we would any other personal issue? Why is it different?

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No one is too far gone if they recognize the family patterns, the sins that need to be addressed, if they are willing to be aware, to work towards something better. Often times, people learn best through hardships! How cruel of a person do you need to be to want to completely discount anyone who’s gone through the heartache and survived a parents divorce as “not acceptable, not good enough, does not reach the requirement for my godly marriage standards.”

Guess what, commenter: A lot of peoples’ parents stay together and are completely miserable. How is that better? A lot of people can think marriage is easy if they never see the hardships of marriage and can turn out to be completely bamboozled and lost in their own marriages because they’ve never seen the struggle. A lot of parents can make their marriage look perfect to their children.

IN MY HUMBLE OPINION, IT DOESN’T MATTER IF A CHILD’S PARENTS HAVE STAYED TOGETHER OR ARE NO LONGER MARRIED BECAUSE EVERYONE IS GOING TO BE MESSED UP IN THEIR OWN WAYS ANYWAY.

How dare you think that someone who comes from a whole family MUST be a better option automatically. How dare you not leave room for people to learn from history’s mistakes. How dare you try to create the perfect partner by how many boxes they can tick off from your mental list of suitabilities. How dare you limit who you can try loving unlike how God loves. How dare you, how dare you,

HOW. DARE. YOU.

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I have learned that from divorce some of the most beautiful, most generous, most gorgeous hearts that beat often come from these broken families! I have seen it not just in my own family but in the people I have met during this process of growing up and becoming my own person. They are no less worth God’s love than you are, and they are no less your love either.

I’ve listened to the voices of teens, young adults, of ex-wives who have struggled through a divorce, and heard the strength in their voice, seen unbelievable generosity in their actions, and watched sacrificial love given even to me by them. I have supported other daughters whose families were thrown into chaos by divorce and seen them grow stronger from it. I have held the bleeding hearts of highschoolers who have seen themselves as mistakes, whose parents never even married, and yet can give everything to those they love, and fight through depression to bring joy to others because they have empathy.

I’ve comforted the broken and found hope in them, I’ve listened to those who feel stuck but find determination to get out, I’ve walked beside the hurting and witnessed healing. I’ve loved on people whom others called unlovable and earned back the deepest of friendships, acceptance, and connection from them. They are SO beautiful that they take my breath away. These people amaze me because God has not given up on them and they haven’t given up on themselves either. And they have not given up on me.

And these are the people, I am the people, that “you could never see yourself wanting to marry.”

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I have seen this raw beauty of souls that come out as shining more brightly than diamonds because of the incredible pressure put on them. They, like me, are hurting and growing and relearning and struggling, just like everyone else in this world. That’s ok!

I’m sorry our hardships we’ve gone through scare you. But I think that we deserve more than to be defined by what’s happened to us. I’m sorry you don’t have more empathy, more compassion, more understanding. I’m sorry that your life has been easy to where you have not been given the gift to see how beautiful we are.

We: the pained, the changed, the victims of mistakes and of abuse, we are more beautiful than you are able to see. Because of what life has dealt us, what God has led us through, we can learn and be better than the past. We can grow stronger and further than you seem possible to imagine because guess what; we have actually seen intimately, first hand, where mistakes were made…we have the best chance to not make the same mistakes if we’re willing to face them, see them head on, and say, “its ok. I see where the path crumbles. Now I know where to truly hang on to the guard rails so I can get further than last time.”

We don’t want to be stuck in the cycle as much as you don’t want to get caught up in it. Believe me. We are trying. So how dare you assume otherwise.

How dare you, commenter, decide in your small little world that our lives are decided before they are even begun, simply because our parents’ marriage didn’t last. How dare you, how dare you

HOW. DARE. YOU.


This was a very emotionally charged post for me to write but I’m going to leave it that way. It felt good to finally be able to articulate and put into words these feelings I’ve worked through and reclaim some of my own self-worth.

Before I close this post, I did want to say thank you to James, my best friend of six years and boyfriend of two, for loving me despite all the baggage I do carry. He has never held my past against me and in fact sees it as having made me into the person I am today that he loves. We fight every day for our future relationship, and he loves me so well through the struggles and insecurities I do have. I feel God’s love most when James loves me; it is incredible and I’m truly blessed. I could never have asked for a better partner to walk through the last many years of survival and recovery than with him and I love him so much.

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AFTERTHOUGHT BECAUSE I NEED TO SAY THIS: Any comments on my parents’ marriage and divorce will not be entertained here, to the person who likes to try to protect my dad for him in my comment section. This is my blog, talk to me about me. My parents have fought their own battles and I know more about their divorce than you do because I WAS IN THE MIDDLE OF IT START TO FINISH. You will not MAKE ME BE QUIET. If you can’t handle my honesty, get off my freaking blog, crazy lady. Thanks, love to dad when you see him. ❤ ❤ ❤

~Jamie

Jamie’s 2017

This last year has felt crazy for me, in incredible ways that pushed me to work harder, and love more freely on everyone in my life, from coworkers to my beloved boyfriend ( we’re two years strong and happier than ever) to even myself. I had some wonderful people in my life this year!

I accomplished some big things too, like purchasing my first car debt free. That was huge for me. And I turned 23. AND I flew back to Georgia for a third time in May to visit James, before he then visited me for the first time in December! I made two best friends out of coworkers while working at Dairy Queen this year: my Ashlyn, the devil to my angel, and goofy good ol’ Trent, who I so desperately just want to adopt and protect haha! A beautiful cinnamon roll too good for this world, too pure. ❤ 😉

It’s been SO. VERY. LONG since I’ve made friends on my own like this, like, friends that can share your heartaches together, have each other’s backs when the pressure of life or work is too much, and cheer for and support you no matter what. Gaining that was HUGE for me this year! Like more than they’ll ever understand due to my past of constantly losing my friends throughout my childhood.

I learned A LOT working at Dairy Queen, but I definitely learned for myself that it is DEFINITELY in my heart to be there for people as the unjudging ear who will listen no matter what because I WANT TO. I LOVE TO. I CARE THAT MUCH. Doing so GAVE ME so many friendships! I definitely felt like my biggest job at work was just to be there for my coworkers, all of them. I love each one so very dearly: I listened to them all when they drove each other crazy, I absorbed the verbal punches, I empathized with their feelings so they wouldn’t feel invalidated and unheard anymore. Even when sometimes it felt like they all hated each other, I felt like they all saw me as their friend, someone who was there for them, and we got through the night together.

I found it incredible how much simply EMPATHIZING with ALL of my coworkers made work-life THAT MUCH BETTER. Besides that, I also felt very valued and loved by my coworkers, especially when I gave my two weeks notice at the end of the year and everyone was just so sad I was leaving. Just wow, it was so heartwarming to have people respond to me so wonderfully! It means to the world to me to have been a part of a family there, even though I’m not there anymore.

The greatest gift from this year was truly knowing there are people who were my friends who loved me very much. I feel very rich with that blessing. Ashlyn and Trent I especially got to know very, very well and they both mean THE ABSOLUTE WORLD TO ME.

Ashlyn is like my twin sister I never knew I was missing; she is so funny and she taught me to speak my mind more! She shares her beautiful two children with me and made me Aunt Jamie. I went to her extended family’s Easter, Halloween, and Thanksgiving parties this past year–she and her mother Eileen made me feel SO WELCOME as a part of their family. Ashlyn and I had some incredible adventures, from late night Wal-Mart shopping, visiting the gym to talk out drama and then eat McDonald’s (haha, we know we’re terrible XD), to racing the little one to the hospital at 1 in the morning. We just absolutely loved working together and being together, to the point that everyone else teased us about it haha! I love her so much, and we still have the best times together! ❤

And Trent. oh my goodness, that kid. ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ I won’t share details because I want to keep private things private, but he changed my life so I want to share a little bit of that. And I just freaking love that kid TO UTTER DEATH. I loved working with him; he is so very hysterical! At the same time, he broke my heart in a way I’d yet to experience for another human being. He was that loud obnoxious kid with the heart of gold who just needed to be loved on, just needed some positive attention and encouragement from someone, somewhere, before something just snaps or dies inside. I’ve never felt so much compassion for another person like I did for him. So, all year, I loved on him for who he was and wow, it was such a rewarding experience! It changed my life; my heart grew so much bigger from it! It strengthened my belief that all everyone needs is simply an unconditional love from God which He can show through any of us, if our hearts are open to listen and understand, to see past the surface to the soul within, to not be afraid to love those who feel unlovable. I’m so happy that I got to watch him grow happier and healthier as the year passed and he truly became one of my best friends! I think he’s someone who can change the world with that big generous heart of his. I pray for him every day and can’t wait to see where he’ll go in life. ❤

He and Ashlyn were such BIG parts of making my 2017 incredible, with their gifts of friendship, honesty, love, and mutual support. They both made me feel so loved, needed and valued! Whenever we were in the same room it was like the air had a spark of energy and happiness for me. We laughed so freaking much while we worked so dang hard, and despite all the hardships, we shared so much joy in that little DQ building. I can never thank them enough for giving me so many fantastic memories from this year. ❤

Honestly, working at Dairy Queen this year was very huge in that I was kept very busy all year. I worked very hard. Honestly, I didn’t know I could work so hard, be so tough, push through it all and come out stronger and without it dampering my work attitude, but I did this year.

I came in every single time I picked up Boss’s call to come in on a night off or because she needed help. I worked nine days in a row: twice. Covered so many shifts, came in early, came in the middle of shifts to help out on nights off, pulled unexpected doubles… all while trying my hardest to still be thoughtful of everyone else and keep my aches and pains and moans and groans off the clock. I worked A LOT in 2017. I worked mostly night shifts, and if I didn’t go on an adventure with Eileen and Ashlyn afterward, which I very often did till 1 or 2 in the morning, I’d come home and collapse. This is why I didn’t blog very much, and I even dropped a lot of my seasonal anime shows just from being so freaking tired or emotionally drained if the vibe at work had been bad. In all honesty, Dairy Queen worked me to the bone this year, and I honestly didn’t do very much besides work my butt off. XD

BUT FROM ALL THAT, I learned that I am one tough BEAST and I AM capable to work a physically demanding job with a big smile on my face despite the rude people in drive-thru and the coworker drama–not just work my fair share, BUT WORK MORE THAN I SHOULD HAVE, and still come out feeling stronger for it. I’m dang proud of myself!

I learned this year that I can do anything I set my mind to. I really can. I know because I did it over and over again.

To that point, I’m looking for different employment now, hopefully in the pet/animal world. Fingers crossed. It’ll be a whole new adventure for 2018, starting a new job with new coworkers and learning new things. But I’m praying and believing that God is going to lead me to the right place, that needs me and the right place that I need. If any of you feel moved to pray for me to find that right place for the next part of my life’s journey, that would incredible. ❤

The only other huge thing that sticks out to me from this year, is James.

Oh, my sweet darling amazing most handsome terribly funny James. I LOVE YOU.

Best boyfriend a girl could ask for! ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤

It’s been two years since James and I started talking romantically and it’s been life-changing. I never thought in a million years that I’d end up with a boyfriend who could be so patient, so understanding and gentle with my emotions, fears, hopes, and supportive of my choices and who I am as a person. And on top of it all, do it on the other side of the country! Long distance has yet to stop us from loving each other wholeheartedly and working towards being together one day!

This year has been much more stable than last year for us! Last year we figured out how to make long distance work and took a lot of time to communicate fears and boundaries and expectations and just building a foundation for us. This year, we’ve enjoyed the fruit of all that labor!

This year, us being in a relationship was the new and amazing normal!

Video^^^ He makes me laugh and laugh and laugh! ❤

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Sparkler fun!

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Another video!^^^We lit sparklers in the moist Georgia night air and danced and laughed and killed bugs. XD

This year we settled into being boyfriend and girlfriend without having to talk about it haha! This year me flying to see him just felt normal! It wasn’t a rollercoaster year for us, but that in itself is amazing. IT’S AMAZING THAT OUR RELATIONSHIP JUST FEELS NORMAL! 😀 Throughout the year while we were apart, we played online games like Path of Exile and Minecraft together, when he wasn’t slaving away at school and I wasn’t getting called into work haha! We celebrated our first official Valentine’s together, and he spoiled me rotten with birthday and Christmas gifts (lots of Disney movies on Blu-ray and DVD, a Blu-Ray player, a new camera and wireless earbuds, and so many other gifts.)

And oh yeah, HE FLEW TO SEE ME THIS PAST DECEMBER FOR THE FIRST TIME! Wow! It was wild having him here in Arizona and meet my family! We had a blast! My mom loved him! Christmas was in the air and it was just too magical! I took him in to work to meet everyone; we spent hours in Zia Records; we went to my theater four times. He and my mom got along almost too well LOL! We snuggled on the love seat and watched lots of movies and musicals. I’ve been anxiously waiting for his visit allllllllllllllllllll year and it was just the absolute best thing in the world when it finally happened! All the snow in Atlanta couldn’t stop him from getting to me! Just, ajskdfajsldfkasldjf it was fantastic!

I couldn’t have asked for a better first visit for him to be here with me and meet Mom!

Thank you for another happy year having me as your girlfriend, James. I can’t imagine you not being my best friend, my life without you, or not being together with you like we are now! I’m so happy with you in my life, and I can’t wait for many more years with you by my side! ❤

2017 was a great year for me. I learned I was so much tougher than I thought I was. And I did get to do some pretty fun things when I wasn’t working!

I went to my first haunted house experience, The 13th Floor, with Ashlyn and her hubby and friends, had the time of our lives screaming our guts out! I ate lots of Panda Express. Visited both Wickenburg and Flag Staff to hike Walnut Canyon. Coworker Matt and I talked up our anticipation for “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2” and “Game of Thrones Season 7” ALLLL spring, which was just the best, and we even went to see “Spider-Man: Homecoming” together (I miss you as well, Matt!) I gave in and got Snapchat. My coworkers spoiled me rotten on my birthday, from hugs and presents, to Boss having everyone sing! I got to babysit the cutest kids on earth as my niece and nephew. I filled my coin bank to the top with tips! I threw down so much cash to get Taylor Swift’s new album and merch (which IS THE BOMB!) I got puppy scars on my arm which are still there. I bought so many dream catchers (the count is up to 12.) Finally finished “Breaking Bad” after a year hiatus. I became a Pewdiepie fan this year–I know that’s super random but he’s given me some great laughs! I got to try acrylic nails for the first time, thanks to Ashlyn! James took me on a date to Arrowhead Mall! Sat in the parking lot after work with coworkers in the heat just because we weren’t ready to say bye yet.

It was a good year!

So yeah, that’s been my year!

The year of finding real friendships and fun in my coworkers, the year I got my wonderful car, the year James at last visited me here in Arizona, the year where being boyfriend and girlfriend felt so freaking normal and real, the year my heart grew so full of love to give to anyone who needed it.

As I said above in that one Instagram post, my overall thought from this year is: I’m beat tired but I’m so blessed. I’m so excited for the new adventures 2018 will throw at me when I find my new job and visit Georgia again. I’m so ready to keep building towards my future!

Goodbye 2017, hello 2018. Throw your best at me; I can handle you. 😉

~Jamie

Best of Friends || My First Valentine

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This year, for the first time in my life, I have a real Valentine. And I never thought it would be me. You know that feeling? Everyone else experiences wonderful things, but it feels like it might never be your reality? Maybe that’s just me: I’ve always felt that way about most things. I think because for most of my life I’ve watched my peers experience things I was always left out on. So I still sometimes have those expectations of being left out, you know? But somehow, my reality this year is that I have a boyfriend I love deeply, and he’s my Valentine.

What happened? XD That sounds dumb to ask, but looking back: what was it that I did?

The thing is, I never really pursued romance as a teenager and young adult. I actually purposefully tried to avoid pitfalls I saw other Christian young women fall into because I saw how unhealthy it was. I didn’t pine for the love of my life so much that I became obsessed with the idea. I didn’t watch a lot of romance films, hardly at all (except some 80’s classics. “Say Anything” amirite?) I didn’t write a thousand “Dear Future Husband” letters. I didn’t make a list of attributes I wanted to find in a partner (“He must be taller than me, he must have blue eyes, he must have a six-pack, ect.”)

Somehow, I knew that a romantic relationship, a real one with depth and meaning, would be a lot of work with someone who I would love despite their outward appearance. That reading 200 different “dating/courtship opinion” books wasn’t going to set me up for the perfect path for marriage. That anything I could learn from sappy romance movies would be foolish and just a lot of false advertising of what real emotional intimacy was like (it really all is, fake. Even the kissing!!! The mad frantic Hollywood kissing you see IS NOT REAL LIFE, PEOPLE. IT’S NOT. XD)

I didn’t “do” a lot of things like that as a single woman.

What I did do was be someone’s friend.

James and I were just friends for many years, and that was all…but being friends is why I love James like I do today. We liked the same kind of movies; we were raised with very similar beliefs, had similar childhood upbringings, shared enough common tastes to keep talking. And that’s all we did; we just kept talking, more and more and more. He was there when things kept falling apart for me and when things were good. I was there for those same similar moments in his life. During that period of time, we learned one thing we both knew: We liked talking. Spending time together. Laughing together. We genuinely liked each other as people, as friends.

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I remember about six months before we became a thing; I realized I had feelings for him. I didn’t want to just say it outright, so I attempted my idea of flirting during our skype chats. Which was to ask things like, “If the zombie apocalypse happened, would you come rescue me?” XD He didn’t let on at all that he was understanding my hidden intentions (he did, mostly XD ) and I began to legit think he really wasn’t interested in me that way. But why would he be. I was a woman from a dysfunctional family allllll the way in the desert of Arizona about five states away from him. Surely I was just too much to pursue outside of being just friends.

Of course, I later came to find out later that he’d really liked me for a long time and had been waiting for the right time to tell me. (So yeah, now I know what it feels like to be the girl in the high school movies who’s completely ignorant that the hero of the movie is in love with her from across the cafeteria for most of the movie. XD)

But in his ways, he had shown it all along: he always made time for us to talk weekly. He bent over backward to help me rescue my computer multiple times. Always kindly let me be myself and express what I wanted or needed. Just, before we started talking about my first visit, the idea of having a long distance relationship felt impossible (for me before we met in person, it still felt seemingly too difficult and I refused to commit too quickly before I knew I was ready.) And the timing wouldn’t have been right if we hadn’t happened exactly when we had. That was God’s incredible life planning. We’re so thankful that we’re now already over a year from our anniversary of “when we realized we like-liked each other”.

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I’m sitting here writing like I’ve always done on Valentine’s Day, writing the thoughts I have on this particular day. I have a big one I want to share, to document, from this past year. It’s my biggest takeaway from this first beautiful relationship I’ve had the honor of being a part of. ❤ It’s something I believe with my whole heart about relationships and making them work.

Be the best of friends first.

And yes, while I know every relationship is going to be different and sometimes things can fall apart because of circumstances out of your control, I truly do believe this is a key ingredient to surviving the bumpy waves of forging and maintaining a romantic relationship with someone. I truly do!

We have to be friends, the best of friends, first. Because we already love our best friends, don’t we? Everyone needs best friends, for they are dependable. They are the ones who are tried and true, the ones who get you for you! One has to know a person well to feel at all safe and trusting in the formation of a romantic relationship, and the only way to know that about someone is to get to know that person as a good friend!

Making friends takes time…but take that time. Don’t muddy who you are together by dating only because they’re cute and you feel a “spark” or because they have money or because your church friends think you two are a good match. No! Forge friendships out of shared common ground and start building them. Spend time together because, hey: you just really like hanging out with this person! They make you laugh and smile, you can talk for hours and it feel like 30 minutes, you can tease and be respectful at the same time, you celebrate your little life victories together, and you empathize, cry, and are there when the dark times come, when the bad news hits, when one more thing happens. James and I did that for several years as just friends and it was wonderful and a comfort to have.

Relationships… and ultimately MARRIAGES… will actually last when you both genuinely like each other and can fight for each other one day at a time. Chemistry, physical attraction; they’re all well and good and have their place, but they are not what you want to pursue as a basis for “I want to be in a relationship with them.” Those things can (and generally are) temporary. Genuinely liking someone because you truly know them and enjoy them, on a mental and emotional level, is so much deeper!

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If your relationship is already full of respect, trust, friendship, honesty, and laughter before you decide to start engaging romanticly, having the really hard conversation, getting closer on physical and emotional and mental levels, it will be SO. MUCH. EASIER. (Especially in my own personal case, in which we’re a long distance couple and have to be extra thoughtful and purposeful in our communication.) 

If you’ve been honest about yourself and your needs and desires in life, and communicate clearly, it will be easier. When you have that history together, that time under your belt as “best friends”, if you’ve seen their actions line up with the words…becoming romantically involved will give all the fear and insecurity bigger stronger rewards. It will make riding the ocean of emotion and communication so very worth it. This is the biggest thing I’ve learned and am so grateful for taking this route for my relationship.

And don’t worry; honestly, physical attraction comes very naturally when someone wins your heart, at least in my experience. ^_^

So, today is Valentine’s Day and I actually have someone this time!

James sent me 22 ounces of chocolate and a stuffed tiger this week, and two cards in envelopes that I’m dying to open and read (haven’t yet at the writing of this, but I will during out skype call today.) ❤ For the first time here on my blog, I actually have a Valentine this year, one I’m so so blessed to have as my best friend and boyfriend.

And since today is the only acceptable day that I could do this, I now must take a moment to sing some of his praises. He is so much more than I thought I deserved or would ever get to have in a boyfriend or future “Someone”, ever. And he is a very humble guy, so all this praise below will fluster him greatly (he doesn’t flipping know how to take a compliment ROFL) but I told him I just had to write how much he’s blessed and changed my life by being himself. I don’t know why God was so gracious to let me wind up with someone I think is so wonderful but I’m glad He was.

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James has never failed me when it matters most. He forgives me every time I fail. He gives me as much attention and affection he possibly can every day, from the sweetest daily goodnight messages to telling me he’s praying for me when I leave for work each day.

I have never felt safer in a man’s presence in my life, from when he walks into a room that I’m sitting in or when he smiles at me from the screen. He’s given me the warmest hugs and kisses. There is a genuine gentleness and peace about him that’s lacked from my life for many years that I can’t believe I get to feel from him. His spirit feels like Home to me.

James is also one of the funniest people I know; he makes me laugh all the time between his array of expressions and voices to his quick wit and teasing humor. I DID always want to be with “the funny guy” and he’s definitely the funny guy for me. XD He’s always eager to lift my spirits when I’m low and will do anything to make me smile, which I love! He truly makes my spirit happy!

James also harbors qualities I really wanted in a boyfriend (qualities I think most should look for in their partners but don’t often think about): humility, a willingness to listen and learn, gentleness, and the ability to apologize without feeling defensive. He is all those things and more, in ways I sometimes kinda thought guys couldn’t be (simply from my own life experience.) He is quick to ask for forgiveness, which really really speaks to his maturity. He is sensitive to my feelings and is gentle with me, especially when I’m in distress or having a bad day. He has been quick, ever since when we were simply friends, to listen to me and learn what I like or dislike (vice-versa, that’s why we watched each other’s movie recommendations five years ago. XD)

He tells me I’m beautiful every day, that I’m worth all the distance, that he’s so lucky to have me. I’ve never felt more loved in my life. He honestly changed how I saw myself as a person. I see myself differently in the mirror now; I was even able to lose weight when he helped me love myself at the weight I was. He has changed me for the better in so many ways like that! In just over a year, I’ve changed so much for the better for being with him, in my levels of self-confidence, self-acceptance, and self-worth. Not because he gave me self-worth, but he helped me see that I was already worth millions. ❤

I think the biggest thing James has done for me is show a true representation of God’s love for me through his own love. He is very slow to anger; he is incredibly patient with me, more patient than I sometimes deserve, I think. He always loves me even when I make mistakes. That no matter where I am, even when we can’t see each other, touch each other, hear each other, he still loves me.  I have seen better representation for God’s great love for me through James than I have ever seen anywhere else. ❤

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I thank God so often that somehow, through all the chaos in my life, I was allowed to have the comfort of friendship from him for so long, and now the comfort of his love that distance can’t stop. I feel so happy to have gotten to experience just the beginning of what they call “love.” To have had my first kiss with the most precious person on earth to me, to hold the heart of someone so eager to love me wholeheartedly, and let him see me, warts and all, and still feel accepted and loved. To have someone to call Home. ❤ It just blows me away. ❤

So, Happy Valentine’s Day, my Darling James! This year I can actually write to you instead of an idea of my future someone in my head; that feels wonderful! Thank you for being my best friend and loving me even when I become emotional wrecks and live with this crazy dysfunctional family, and live so far away. Thank you for always having the best fun with me, for letting me be my spontaneous silly self, for helping me feel truly beautiful, for trying to love me like God loves me. You’ve changed me for the better! ❤ I can’t wait to keep changing and growing with you; we have so far to go and so much still to learn, but I’m excited for it all.

I love you. ❤ We’re the best of friends and I wouldn’t have it any other way. ❤

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~Jamie