The Joy of 2017

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As 2017 started, I had no idea how difficult this year was going to be, but I also had no idea how much joy it was going to hold as well.  I began this last year just like many of you, making goals, but I also set the word of joy before me.  One thing I have learned about joy is that if you want it, you have to fight for it.  2017 was no exception to this rule.

My job is a fulfilling one, but over the last year it has been a struggle to find joy as I teach.  Many of my students live in severe poverty and their stories make my heart ache.  One students’ parents struggle with alcohol and drug addictions so bad that the student had to flee in the night with all their possessions in black plastic trash bags. Another student shared a story of having to, at the age of 12, drive herself to school because her parents were each working one of their three jobs.  Both of these students know the meaning of joy and their smiles have helped light up my classrooms.  As they fight through the struggle that their lives are, they do not stop.  So when my job became a struggle, I chose to be like them and to fight for joy.

Therefore in February, just as I was told my job was going to be cut, I flew out to California with April and proposed to her.  She said yes! What joy!

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The disappointing school year ended and even though my job had been retained, I no longer felt wanted where I work.  But I entered the summer with a coming wedding and joy filled the air.  But we had to fight for that joy.  Just like many engagements, ours was filled with drama.  It seemed to pop out of nowhere, but it was hurtful and forced us to make a last minute change to our wedding party.  However, one person’s attempt to steal the joy of our upcoming wedding only made me love April more.  She never stopped caring for that person and it is that grace April shows to the people in her life that truly amazes me.

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My wedding day was a true adventure.  Not the type of adventure like my bachelor party where an 800 pound black bear showed up to end the party, but a crazy string of events that nearly caused me to miss my wedding.  April spent all day with her family and I stayed with mine.  I shared a calm morning with my niece and nephews, trying to stay present in the moment and not worry about my wedding.  About an hour before my groomsmen were to show up so we could meet Becky Rice, our photographer, I was packing my car with all that I would need for after the wedding.  As I walked out to my Civic with the last suitcase I was surprised to find that my car was locked.  I grabbed my keys and pressed the unlock button, but nothing happened. It was as if my car was dead, unlock-able with all of my wedding items trapped on the inside.

I ran inside to grab my spare key to see if it would work, but no luck.  Time started to slip away.  I tried calling Honda to see if they could help.  No luck!  As I was on the phone, Luke and Taylor, two of my groomsmen showed up.  I gave Luke my car keys and said, “See if you can fix it.”  Just as I was telling the Honda agent, “No I can’t have it towed into your shop today because I am getting married,” Luke came back downstairs and told me he had done a miracle.

With my dad, Michael, and Taylor as witnesses, Luke had walked up to my car, said a prayer to Saint Michael the archangel and then punched my car.  It immediately unlocked.  Joy returned! We were free to leave for my wedding, but then I couldn’t find my wallet.

We scrambled to search all of the locations I had touched only to give up thirty minutes later.  We were already late and our photography session with Becky was slipping away.  I hopped into my car, figuring I would just go wallet-less only to jump back out and run inside to find it in the last place I looked.  I had left it in the drawer with my spare car key.

My wedding was the most joyous day of the year if not of my life.  I know that God will grant me days just as joy-filled and maybe even more so, but dang my wedding was fun.  As I drove to my wedding after finding my wallet and having my car miraculously unlock so we were free to leave for Hudson Gardens, I choose to live in joy and not take on the stress that had attempted to ruin my afternoon.  April and I danced, we were able to eat our food, but the best part was the joy in knowing that April said, “I do,” to me.

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My wedding ended and as we left the reception, surrounded by friends and family who love us dearly I knew I would have to hold onto this joy.  I know that through sickness and health, through the good times and the bad times I will need to remember the light of that night and the love Christ has given me to be able to choose to love and serve April.  I will choose to fight for joy because I too said I do.

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Also, it turns out I needed my wallet.  April accidentally left hers in her car and we wouldn’t have been able to check into our hotel room without a credit card and a form of identification.  I laughed with joy as we made our way to our room.

That was July and the rest of our year has had ups and downs, but through it all God has taught me about His joy.  If you want it, you have to fight for it.  If you fight for it, it will be like having Christmas with a three year old.  It will light your dark night and shine light into your day with a smile that will last for days.

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April and I shared our second Christmas together and we were awoken, okay I had been up since 3:30 because I love Christmas too much to be able to sleep, by Addi, Linc, and Breck.  Their cries of joy and delight were so much fun to share in.  Breck couldn’t stop running around in excitement.  Who knew 6:30 in the morning could be so much fun, even Treagan was all smiles.

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What a blessing of joy it was to share Christmas with my entire family.  2017 has been a year of joy for me, but I hope my readers understand that it was also a very difficult year.  But there is a joy in my life that even in the darkest of nights, I will continue to fight for and I hope you do to.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year and peace and joy be with you!

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An Adventure of a Lifetime: Today Is The Day!

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I was chased out of camp by an 800 pound black bear.  I rafted down the ice fields of clear creek.  And I was thrown the most beautiful rehearsal dinner.  But the most amazing and loving event happens tonight.

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Today my nephew, Linc my six year old Jr. groomsman, is going to help me with my vows. When April and I were selecting our wedding party Addi, my 8 year old niece, and Linc were two of the first people we wanted to ask.  I had told Addi that she was going to be in the wedding party before I had even popped the question to April. Through screams of joy she told me she was more excited about my upcoming wedding than I was, which was not true. I mean come on, I have waited 33 years for this! And now it is today!!

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This is where Linc comes in and how he is going to help me.  To ask Linc to be in the wedding party I wrote him a letter.  It asked him to be my Jr. groomsman, and according to my older sister, Linc carried that letter around for 4 hours.  He wasn’t quite sure what he was supposed to do as a Jr. groomsman, but now Linc just finished Kindergarten and is all up on his reading and writing skills so he knows what will help me with my marriage.

No, Linc is not worried about helping me vow to love April patiently, even though I pray I will be able to do that.  He told his dad that during the ceremony his job is to whisper the write vows into my ear.  A. E. I. O. U. and maybe even Y.

As an English teacher, I never thought knowing my vowels would be so important to staying true to loving April, but last week he sent me a video telling me how to say my vows. A. E. I. O. U.

Maybe A. stands for Always be patient and E. Endure all things and I. It bears all things, but what about the O or the U? I think Linc’s little misunderstanding of vows and vowels is as important as me being able to tell April that I vow to love her with a patient, kind, enduring love.  It shows me that he loves me and with his desire to help me say my vowels wants to help support me.  The support I have felt from my family and friends this week has been amazing.  I feel like without them I would be a word without a vowel.

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Tonight as I say my vows to April because of the community of people around me I can tell her I love her.  Without everyone I would just be a pile of lv and and be able to boldly tell her that I L.O.V.E. her.

So thank you to everyone who has helped support April and me on this adventure! My wedding party has blessed me by loving on April and taking me out adventuring on wild rivers, but nothing has compared to being prayed for and showered with hugs.  I am not screaming and jumping up and down with excitement like Addi was, but I am that excited on the inside.  Also, I might scream and jump tonight on the dance floor!

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My Risk Will Be Rewarded With Joy: One Week Until I Am Married!

View More: http://ketphotography.pass.us/brendan-and-april-engagementsWhat is the biggest risk you’ve ever taken?  I love to think I am a risk taking adventurer, but in reality I love safety.  That is why back in October I broke up with April.  Her love was challenging me and I got scared.  Thank God he didn’t leave me alone.  His grace stepped in and allowed me to realize the error of my ways.  That was when I told the biggest risk ever and asked her to come back into my life.

Now in one week I will be saying my vows to April.  This will not be the riskiest thing I have ever done, but the vows are the reward of putting my selfish desires down and seeking God first.

The riskiest thing I have ever done is to say to God, your will for me trumps everything else.  If I’d had my way I would have remained selfish and not texted April back, but he challenged me to speak my heart and I am so glad that I followed him.  I told her that I loved her.  Taking that risk has changed my life.  I am amazed by how his love has changed me and brought April and me closer together.

So with a week remaining until April and I are one, I’ve been counting down the days until my wedding with joy.  If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook you may have noticed that I can’t stop posting pictures of us and proclaiming my love for her.  Its because I know all that I have is due to God’s grace and I can’t shut up about it.

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When I am with April I can’t help but laugh and smile.  Her smile is contagious.  To think I risked a life without April.  The girl who has taught me the power of the gif.  Who can’t stop laughing when I try to kiss her in public.  And the girl who has taught me how to fight for the joy inside of our relationship.

Over the last month I have learned how to fight for April when our God given joy has been threatened and I know that over the next week it will be stressful and parts of the week might even feel joyless. But that is where God comes in.  He told me to tell April I love her and he has honored that risk I took so I am going to continue to trust him.

We want to continue to take risks that honor God and each other, but we know it will not be easy.  So if you could you pray for April and me so that we have the strength to love each other and fight for joy each day.

When we trust God we will love better.  True love is patient and kind.  It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things, and love never ends.  But most of all love is not easy, it is risky.  I know that things will fall apart.  April and I will have rough days and maybe even some things with our wedding will not go as planned, but I am going to chose to find joy in God and love April with out end.  So please pray for us and let me know what you have done to help keep love alive in your life and your relationships?

 

Lucky Seven and One Month Till Our Not So Hodgepodge Marriage!

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On July seventh I will make an unbreakable vow.  When I proposed back in February the wedding date seemed to be forever away.  Now it is coming up on April and me like a bullet train.  This makes me more excited than anything, but still before we know it our special day will be here and that is a little nerve racking.  Kind of like the massive migraine that knocked into me while I was at work today our wedding is going to come up suddenly, but not unprepared for.

Our wedding is going to be hodgepodge free because July seventh is a special day!

It is not just a special day for April and myself.  Back in February when I proposed, I had July in mind because that would give me a month off from teaching to help plan the wedding and a month after the wedding to recover and I hoped for either the 17 or the seventh so that our anniversary could read: 7/7/17 or 7/17/17.

The numbers seven and 17 are special to me because seven is the number of completion and 7/7/17 just sounds good and then my birthday is on the 17 so obviously it is special to me.  I mean without that date and that number I wouldn’t be here.  Oh and 2/17/17 was when I proposed so I figured making July 17 would be a fun wedding date.  Well, as it turns out July 17 is a Monday so that was a no go.  But then April wasn’t sure she wanted our wedding to be on July seventh.

She was a fan of July sixth for a couple of reasons.  Thursdays are a more affordable options for marriage and neither of us had any desire to blow up our bank accounts for our wedding.  But I was persistent and wouldn’t let go of 7/7/17 and I am so glad that I did not.  Not just because I am a huge Broncos fan and now that we are tying the knot on July seventh I am able to have John Elway‘s number in my wedding, but for an even cooler reason.

Shortly after our engagement April invited me over to her parents house for Dinner.  She had been talking to her mom about potential wedding dates.  I was sure her mom would have an opinion and throw a completely different date into the mix or say something like I think you two should hold off on marriage for another year so that you can save for the wedding.

But she didn’t do that! She said in Spanish that July seventh is a special date in her family as it is her anniversary and the anniversary of her parents.  So with her blessing she asked us to be the third generation in her family to be married on July seventh!

Now that date is a month away and I feel like I have so much to do, so much to learn.  Yet, I have already learned so much.

Planning our wedding I never thought I would learn something so simple yet so important like that my dad doesn’t know how to hodgepodge or mod podge and what the difference is between the two.

I know you’re wondering how this all came up, but I promise you that it came quite simply and rather hilariously.  April and I have been struggling to figure out what to do for our guest book and about a month-and-a-half ago we were eating lunch at her library and I mentioned having our guest book be a photograph of the two of us from our engagement session with Becky Rice.

Somehow April thought I said that we should do a mod podge guest book because my dad knows how to do mod podge.  So when she asked me again what we wanted to do I was confused as to why this item was resurfacing as I had thought the matter was settled.

She asked if we wanted to do a guest book where our guest left a cute note and then said she didn’t like mod podge. I said, “don’t you mean hodgepodge,” and she said, “no, mod podge because you said your dad knows how to do  it.”  Not quite sure what she was talking about I replied, “Um I don’t ever remember bring up hodgepodge.”  This went on for about thirty minutes and broke down into laughter.  It is my believe that she had a dream where I said my dad would do mod podge hodgepodge.  She still claims it was a real conversation but instead of arguing about it we chose to laugh about it and decided to go in a completely different direction for our guest book.  It helped that I guaranteed April that my dad, like me, doesn’t have a clue what mod podge or hodgepodge are at all.  It turns out mod podge is where you glue cut out magazine pictures to a page or something like that and hodge podge is where things are thrown together haphazardly.  So let’s just say hodgepodge has nothing to do with our wedding and neither does mod podge because April is classier than that.

So what I really learned through that is wedding planning is stressful and somethings can be misheard.  It is best to give grace to your loved ones and give each other the ability to laugh when a weird disagreement occurs.

Just as importantly I learned about having a plan that way nothing in the wedding becomes hodgepodge.  We have worked our tails off to have a plan for what we want in our wedding and how we want to pay for our wedding.  Having a plan for your wedding budget is a must.  We are paying for our wedding mostly on our own and because of that I figured we would have to go into debt.  Debt is not okay.  And yet I figured it was something that had to happen.  But, as it stands right now, God is helping us pay for our wedding without going into debt!

I have learned the power of being blessed.  Several friends and family members blessed us with the ability to pay for our catering right by the due date.  I had no idea back in February how I was going to write the check for all the food, but yesterday I was able to place that check in the mail and for that I am grateful.

So I still don’t have a clue what God will do in my life and in my relationship with April over the next month, but I know that I am going to strive to be grateful for all of his blessings and act gracefully at all times.  My hope is that my wedding is not a hodgepodge but a blessing of love to all who come to help celebrate the special day.

I know that when I give God all of my anxieties he will help my wedding come up sevens!

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How I Proposed And Made April My Bride

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In November of 2016 April and I started discussing a future together which at that time was full of plans for Denver Comic Con and all the movies we had to watch together.  Marriage was on the table, but I had convinced her that we needed to go camping first before we seriously considered combining our forces for good.

But after spending Christmas together, I knew that even if she hated camping, I didn’t want to spend my life without her.  I kept talking about camping and as April still hasn’t spent the night under God’s amazing stars, I kept telling her we needed to camp so that we could see if we were really meant to be together.  Fortunately for me and probably for her too, this was just a lie to keep her on her toes.  Like I was going to ghost on her, (a term here meaning vanish for no good reason) after our first failed camping experience.

Instead I was planning a proposal.

First, I had to convince her to go to the Wonderful World of Disney and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter with me for my birthday. That didn’t take much convincing because she too loves theme parks.

Next, I had to ask for her father’s blessing and make sure she didn’t have a clue I was meeting with her dad.  Luck was on my side when one night she left her phone at my house and  I was able to snag her dad’s number.  I texted him right away.  We met for breakfast and with my broken Spanish I asked for his blessing.  He said yes.

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Later the same day I met my parents at the ring store and picked out the diamond. For the next two weeks I finally came to understand what it feels like to hold a secret and have it burn a hole in my pocket.

Finally, I was able to convince a friend of mine to join me at Harry Potter World to take pictures of the proposal. The only day he could do it was February 17th, my birthday and the day I had planned on proposing.  Now, all I had to do was show up at the park on February 17th.

But when good things are happening there is resistance. We had set backs along the way, mostly with getting to California and the Harry Potter World.  Travelocity messed up our tickets and my boss didn’t want to approve my time off.  After five hours on the phone with Travelocity in which both our tickets were nearly canceled due to the stupidity of our agent, I felt like giving up.

Maybe God didn’t want me to go to California.  What if this was a sign from him that my trip wasn’t a good idea, and then I was told by my boss I had to be at a meeting for work on my birthday.

God gave me the word of joy at the start of the year and I have felt him tell me that I would need to fight for it.  So I fought through these challenges, and requested time off from my boss for my birthday.  I was able secure the time off so April could take me to California over President’s Day Weekend.

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As easy as it would have been to give up on a grand proposal and believe that it was not meant to be due to all of the resistance, I chose to fight for joy anyway.  I did not give up when the travel agent messed up our tickets, nor when I got in an accident on my way home from work on the night of our flight.  It was a fight getting to the airport and once we were in the terminal the fight didn’t stop.  The flight was over booked and offering 500 dollars to wait until the next day.  That money would have been amazing, especially with my smashed up car I had just left behind at my house.  I could tell April wanted to wait, but I felt God give me the strength to say no and to trust him, his plan for me was to fly off to California and like Van Gogh said, start a good thing.  I had to say no to the money and we flew off to California.

Once we arrived in California, tropical storm Lucifer did all it could to steal our joy.

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Later that night my phone would die due to the amount of rain from the storm

 

Trusting God, I chose to find joy anyway, which meant no matter how long April took on the homework she decided to do right before leaving for the park (She had no idea I was proposing, so her procrastination on her homework is slightly excusable, even though it was my birthday and she could have skipped it as it was a ten point assignment or how hard it was raining once we reached Universal Studios). I was going to have fun because I knew God was for me, he wanted me to propose.

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I was a nervous wreck. I had written my proposal the night before and as we drove to the park, I kept reading over what I was going to say. At lunch in “The Three Broomsticks” I prayed the rain would stop. It didn’t.

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As we finished our food, I gave a lame excuse about needing to run off to the restroom. I dashed outside and basically swam to a prearranged location (Moaning Myrtle’s Restroom in Hogsmeade) to meet my friend who was already there to take pictures. We ran through the plan and he showed me the best location for pictures; right outside in the rain.

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After having him repeat where he wanted us, I waded my way back inside and convinced April that I needed to show her the best view of the Hogwarts castle. It was a miracle she followed me into the rain.

I took off her hood to her rain coat and proposed! We were too love-struck to feel the rain anymore.

Okay, that is not true. It was raining so hard that my handwritten proposal was hard to hold onto. But April waited patiently as I drew out a wand.

Next, April freaked out when I pulled a copy of Harry Potter And The Half Blood Prince from my back pack.

“It will get wet!” she said.

To focused to care, I opened the book and dropped to one knee.

“Will you make an unbreakable vow with me?” I asked. Before she could respond I looked down at the opened book where the ring was hanging on a ribbon. However, it was raining so hard that the ring was blown off the page, out of sight. I scrambled to move it back and I said, “April Inez Hernandez, I love you. Will you marry me?”

She did not ghost me. She did not bench me. She did not bread crumb me, but she said without any hesitancy, “Yes I will!”

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Harry, Hermione, Ron, and Ginny: How I Chose To Love My Bride

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Our first date didn’t end with the kiss. It ended with April rescuing me!  After saying goodbye I jumped into my car and started to drive off only to have my gas run out two feet outside my parking spot.  It was past 10 pm and all the gas stations near the theater were closed.  My cell phone had only five percent of its battery left so April picking up on the first call was a miracle.  Without a moment of hesitation she turned around, picked me up, and drove me home so I could grab up a gas can.  Patiently she took me back to my car, helped make sure it would start, and finally followed me home, making sure I was safe.

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Looking back I am shocked it took my heart so long to open up. But, can you blame me, I had been show-goggled (a term here meaning the attraction lessens or increases based on the types of tv shows you watch like when a girl broke up with me because I didn’t like the show Friends), so I was being extra cautious. But April is kind and gracious and is definitely not petty.  Never has she held it against me that I ran my car out of gas on our first day nor that I have different opines on television or that I know that Harry Potter does not belong with Ron’s main squeeze Hermione Granger.

If you haven’t read any Harry Potter, all you need to know is that JK Rowling was able to create a world with super lovable and relatable characters.

As long as I can remember, I have always connected with the side kicks or the best friends in stories and TV shows; even though I would rather be the hero. I see parts of Harry Potter in myself, but when forced to choose a character I completely relate with, it would have to be the best friend, Ron.

Ron Weasley holds a special place in my heart because he too is the sidekick and is constantly given the hand-me-downs.

Maybe that is why my first major fight with April was over fictional charactersI was so adamant that Ron land Hermione as she is no hand-me-down.

I am firmly on team Harry and Ginny as well as team Ron and Hermione. April wants Harry Potter and Hermione Granger to end up together because she sees them as the two leads and thus believes they are destined to be together.

She told me that she thought Ron and Hermione argued to much and that if Hermione wasn’t to be with Harry she should at least be with Malfoy, a horrible bully. At hearing this, I was furious.

We are still arguing over this, but along the way, I realized, much like Ron does in the sixth and seventh books, that it is not important to always be right, but it is better to love and be loved. And my love is best when it is given away freely in sacrifice of my own pride.

This argument over the love lives of two fiction characters will not end us.

April was patient and courageous in her own way. She read all of my favorite books and even went hiking with me! She didn’t even run in fear when we heard a mountain lion as we hiked through the Colorado Hogback. Yet her real act of courage came in July after months of dating when she said, “I love you!”

I freaked out. I was convinced that I didn’t deserve something so wonderful, yet I couldn’t bench her (a term that means place the person you are dating to the side so you can check out other options), neither could I friend-zone her.

God kept telling me to be patient but something wasn’t right. I wasn’t being the leader I God had called me to be, nor was I communicating my feelings. Our relationship was more like Ron and Hermione’s than Harry and Ginny’s, meaning it was full of tension. I broke up with her believing tension meant I should move on, but that if she truly was Hermione and I was Ron, then our friendship would last, but it would be nothing more.

I broke up with her after a night out at the movies and through our breakup I learned that I loved April not because she was the same as me, but because she stood up for herself and was confident in her own beautiful unique self.

The night of our break up, as soon as I started communicating my feelings April listened and communicated her own desires. She told me that she did not want to only be my friend and reaffirmed that she loved me. When she told me this, I realized that she was my best friend and that I wanted to work through the rough patches with her.

I realized that when you really love someone, you work through the tension. After four days of crying, I asked her to meet me for coffee and said, “You’re my best friend and I love you.”

April is a die hard Harry Potter fan, but not like I am. She has her own opinions and that is what makes her so lovable. I am learning to love someone who is unlike me. April is not someone I am just with because she is like me and makes me feel better about myself, but she has become the someone I am with because she makes me a better person. She does this because she teaches me to love someone other than myself and unlike me.

In that moment when I told April I loved her too, April showed me true grace.

We’ve been at each others’ sides ever since! But this time with a purpose. Marriage!

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How I Met My Bride or Choosing Joy

View More: http://ketphotography.pass.us/brendan-and-april-engagementsWhat would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?

Online dating is a world of wonder. New terms have come from this world such as ghosted, bread crumbed, benched, haunted, and show goggled. And yes, all of these have happened to me. But if they hadn’t, I would never have met April.

It is amazing that I found someone so wonderful, considering she could have acted out any of those negative dating terms listed above. During my own dating journey I decided no matter what I would choose joy and be open to all that God has for me. So even though I was frustrated with being single and feeling at times like I was not worth noticing, I decided to trust that God had someone for me.

April popped into my life unexpectedly in February of 2016. I was a mess. In September of 2015 I nearly died of pneumonia and just six months later I was still reeling. So when she sent me a simple message I didn’t know what I was doing. But I did know I wanted to choose joy and trust God. So I messaged her back and little did I know how much that little decision would change my life. Van Gogh said, “Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.

Her sweet little message asking about my trip to Harry Potter World started a great thing. April is the most genuine woman I know and that beautiful characteristic bled through her first message. I didn’t want to bread crumb her (a term here meaning string her along with tidbits of information about myself, but no real desire of actual an actual date) so when she asked me for my phone number I gave it to her without hesitation. Then with the kind of courage reserved for the most genuine or crazy man ever, I asked her out after just a week of messaging back and forth.

February is a crazy time to go on a first date. My birthday is February 17th and I was hesitant to ask April out because I didn’t want to make her think I just wanted her to give me a birthday gift. But then I knew if I waited until after my birthday she might decide to ghost on me.

February is also crazy because it is host to Valentine’s Day. When I decided to be courageous and stop worrying about going on a date super close to my birthday, it was the 14th of February. I sent April a simple text asking her if she wanted to meet and go see a movie. I explained that I knew it was Valentine’s Day, but that I thought it would be fun and we could make it super casual. She replied back shortly after with a yes!

That evening, after watching The Walking Dead I told my parents I was going to meet a friend for a movie which was code for I am going on a date and I don’t want to tell you that I am doing so. We met at the AMC near my house which turns out is quite a drive for her.

The movie was Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and I should have known then that she wasn’t just after my brains, but she was after my heart as well.

I am so glad that I chose to find joy in all things and did not shy away from a date on Valentine’s Day. But the most courageous act I committed was hugging her after the movie. The hug lasted a little longer than we expected and so did the kiss.