Lately, I've been looking back to when we first met, reminiscing over the many providences of God in how He brought us together, and just thinking about how blessed I am to do life with you! 
When first I laid eyes on you, a dapper seventeen-year-old young man, I never could've dreamt of what the future held for us. It was 10:15 a.m. on a Sunday morning.  I was late for church as I came scurrying through the door with a couple of siblings in tow. In the midst of this commotion, I spotted you, the "new guy", and our eyes met for a second. During the service, I looked over in your direction a few times. You'd grown a handsome goatee that yielded a more aged look, and I was convinced you were at least in your early 20's! Our first conversation was slightly awkward because we both wanted to say "Hey!" but we were a bit nervous. You tried to break the ice. "Is that an iPhone?" you questioned, pointing at the device I was fumbling around in my hands. I held up my beat-up iPhone 3 in a lime green case, "Yeah, it's an ancient one." You were an android user at that point (though I've since converted you), so I guess that was a genuine inquiry. That was pretty much the extent of our first conversation, as siblings walked up and we got pulled away. 
Leaving church that day, I had no clue if I'd ever see you again... but you'd be back! Three weeks later, you showed up at our church again, and afterward, my brothers invited you over to our house to hang out for the afternoon and have supper with us. After that, just about once a month you would make the 3 1/2 trek up from Hot Springs to NW Arkansas. You told me that you were finishing up studies at your community college and that you were thinking about transferring to the University of Arkansas. So of course, you wanted to familiarize yourself with the area and make friends up here. I convinced myself that that was it, and refused to think that you had anything else in mind, bBut my sisters started to tease me about you. 
I'd found out your age, and calculated that I was 2 1/2 years older than you. Surely he wouldn't be interested in an older gal, I reasoned. He's a teenager, and I'm already twenty! But on the other hand, it seemed that you already knew I was older and were trying to wait as long as possible to let me in on that fact. Could this mean that he does, in fact, like me, and is trying to avoid being written off because of his age? 
Over those next few months, we talked a lot during your visits. And the more we talked, the more I started to fall for you. It was as if I couldn't help myself. I didn't know many guys in their 30's with the passion for Christ that you had! I was amazed by the depth of the spiritual conversations we would have. You went deep with God. You loved the Scriptures. It wasn't for show or a facade. You weren't putting on to try to impress anyone. You were genuine.
We talked about our favorite books, favorite preacher, and what we'd been learning in our study of the Word. You told me how you were all into Charles Spurgeon and had listened to hundreds of his sermons while you were working early mornings at the golf course. You bought me a copy of Charles Spurgeon's "Morning and Evening" devotional and wrote a note on the front cover. 
I looked forward to every time I'd get to see you, and started to realize just how much I missed you when you had to leave. Between visits, we'd text a lot. Sometimes I felt like my heart was running after you too quickly. I always wanted to have my phone on me so I could read your texts the second they came in, but then I found myself thinking, Maybe I should wait a couple of hours to text him back so he doesn't think I'm crazy about him. But I was crazy about you! You'd become my best friend. 
 
We'd talked about everything, big things, small things. We asked every question we could possibly think of. I loved everything about you-- your smile, your laugh, your sense of humor, and I could tell that you loved me too, though we'd yet to speak those words. 
 
And then it happened... you told me that you loved me. I cried. (And I'm not a super emotional person!) 
 
A few days later, you took me on our first date. I don't even remember what we ordered, but whatever it was, we didn't eat much! I could hardly believe that this was real. You? Me? Together! Felt like a dream. 
 
We knew we wanted to spend forever together, but we still needed to get some things together before we were prepared to take that next step. I told you to buy me a ring from Claire's. I didn't care if it turned my finger green if it meant we could save up quicker for our future together! But you reminded me that you wanted it to last forever. So you worked hard and continued saving. You picked out a gorgeous princess cut diamond that you had set in a unique band-- unlike anything I'd ever seen before! 
Nearly a year later, the day had come. There we were in a gorgeous glass chapel. The sun was setting, and the aisle was lined with flickering candles and red rose petals. You knelt down on one knee and ask asked me to be your wife. My eyes were watery with emotion as I looked into your eyes and whispered "Yes!" 
 
We chose our wedding date and began planning! Neither of us preferred cake, so we opted for an ice cream sundae bar instead. Our wedding coordinator had to have thought we'd lost our minds. "Y'all do realize you're having a November wedding, and an outdoor reception, right?" Ha! We had lost our minds. We were on cloud nine!
I found my dress, and it was perfect! I ordered all the attire for my bridal party online. When bridesmaids dresses came in, half of the girls loved the fit, and the other half? We won't even get into all that. The groomsmen's pants arrived, and they were awful! From the front they looked like normal, navy dress pants, but the entire back side was an elastic waistline. Not even kidding. I made you try on a pair, and I couldn't stop laughing. To make things worse, all your groomsmen would be wearing suspenders. It was a grandpa's dream outfit. Haha! Thankfully, we were able to exchange the pants in time, and everything turned out just fine. 
 
The months, weeks and days leading up to the wedding seemed to pass so slowly. We must've had fifteen different married couples tell us that they could remember being where we are and that "Time flies by!" And they were right, in regards to after the wedding. But before the wedding, time doesn't fly by. It crawls by at a snail's pace. 
 
But the day did finally arrive! We were happily married and off on our honeymoon! Life together had begun,  and it was wonderful. It's only gotten sweeter since! That's not to say that every day is easy. Marriage is blissful, but it is also hard work-- and by God's grace, you work at it harder than anyone else I know. I thank God for giving me you. 
 
When I think about what you mean to me, it's hard to put into words. You're one of a kind. You're a gem. You've influenced my life in ways you probably don't even know, and have helped me to be a more well-rounded person. You love me just the way I am, and you're not out to change my personality at all. But at the same time, you encourage me to be all that I can be and to push myself to do hard things. For instance, when interacting with new people, I love it that your outgoing personality can keep the conversations going and I can just sit back and chill. But every once in a while, you encouraging me to step out of my comfort zone by saying "Hey babe, maybe you can talk to that girl over there. She looks lonely. You'll do great! It'll be good for ya!"
I feel comfortable asking you for an analysis of how I've handled a particular situation, and I appreciate your straightforward answers because your method of delivery is kind and loving. You're honest, but you don't tear down with your words. You're a good balance of both truth and grace. And we all know that one without the other can lead to some serious problems. 
The love adorable smirk that comes across your face when I mispronounce a word-- like "hanger", and then the back and forth of 
Me: Well how do you say it?
You: Without the hard "g" sound.
"Whatttt? No way. That sounds weird."
"Babe, you don't say the hard "g" sound at the end of the words 'sing' or 'hang' do you? So say 'hang' and then add '-er' on the end."
"Ahh, still sounds weird!"
I love that we can let our guard down around each other, whether that manifests itself in a deep heart-to-heart conversation, or in expressing our corny sense of humor that we're glad no one else is around to witness. We come up with the most hilarious nicknames for each other, and get ourselves laughing over our ridiculous jokes. Anyone listening in would think we were nuts! 
You've seen me at my best, and you've seen me at my worst. You hold me when I cry. You pray for me when I cannot pray for myself. You leave notes of encouragement for me to find when you know I've had a tough day. You're tender and compassionate. Nine times out of ten, you're the first one to apologize in an argument, and this always turns things around. When we're disagreeing about something and things are feeling heated, you'll look me in the eyes and crack a smile, lean over and kiss me and say "I love you, Jessa Lauren." It's impossible to stay mad at you for more than a minute! 
You are so tender with our children. Spurgeon loves wrestling with you, and playing hide & seek. Henry loves "talking" to you! His face lights up and he gets so excited when you're around! You change diapers and get up with fussy babies in the night. 
Friends are so encouraged by the conversations they have with you. You direct conversations to spiritual things, and people come away desiring to know Christ more. 
You love not in word only, but also in deed. You are compassionate to the hurting. You desire to help people in need. You're observant of the person on the street corner with a cardboard sign, and you always have a gift card for a local restaurant where he can find a hot meal. You take time to listen to people's stories. You remember people's names. If you tell someone you'll pray for them, you actually do that. It's not an empty promise. 
 
You rise early in the morning to have time to pray and study your Bible before work, even if it means going on 4-5 hrs of sleep at a time. Your relationship with Christ is priority to you, and that has made a greater impact on me than you will ever know. I am thankful our sons have such a godly example to look up to.
 
There's is just so much more that I could say, but I shall close for now with this: I know that I married up. God has blessed me beyond measure in giving me you! I am so thankful for you! 
 
Happy Birthday, Lovey!