Anxiety, Adventures, and Aspens

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Do not be anxious about anything, but pray and be thankful.- Philippians 4:6 Yeah, but what about my life?  Last week after I posted about needing to open up about my sleep problems I was attacked by two straight nights of anxiety filled sleep.

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Yay, time to practice all the advice I gave out (I am not sure you can sense my sarcasm).  After midnight, my mind doesn’t want to think logically.  It just wants to sleep so when my heart feels the flames of fear and my brain begins to bounce back and fourth from one thought to another, it has taken practice to slow myself down.  But I took a breath and remembered all of the times God has provided for me in times of turmoil.

I am learning to breathe in and think of beautiful things.  Breathe out and release my fear.  Beauty beats anxiety.

The world we live in is beautiful.  No I am not naive, I know of pain and suffering, but even in the darkest of times God’s beauty abounds.

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Two weeks ago April and I traveled up to Breckenridge to go aspen leaf peeping.   The beauty of Breckenridge in the fall is astounding.  As we drove up Boreas Pass I was reflecting on the last year and all my sleep struggles.  The previous year when we came up to Breckenridge my sleep was an absolute mess and I had hoped that a little time away would fix it.  It didn’t.  But the beauty of the aspens left needing to catch my breath. When aspen leaves rustle in the wind, I am not sure there is a more calming sound.

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Aspens are amazing in how they are all one organism so that each tree supports the collective whole.  Every year aspens cycle through life.  In the spring they start to bud new leaves that turn deep great through the next couple months of summer.  In the fall they made their most drastic change when the leaves change from green to gold, red, and yellow only to fall off by winter time.  All winter aspens are bare, but then they are reborn in the spring.  This happens every year.  God takes care of his creation.

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Driving over Boreas Pass God took me up into his beauty and reminded me that if he cares that much to create a beautiful tree he also cares for me.  On our way down to Como, on the other side of the pass, April and I parked our car and walked down into a grove of aspens.  Standing under the rustling leaves I felt Jesus was next to me saying, “look out over the aspens and don’t be anxious.  Don’t worry about if you sleep well or if work goes well.  Aspens don’t work, they are fed by me.  If I cloth the aspens in such beauty, don’t you think I will take care of you too?”

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He cares about beauty and goodness.  So I whatever is good and beautiful, think on those things. When I am struggling to sleep, I’ve started to think about the beautiful aspens up in the mountains. Remembering that God has provided for me in the past and he will provide for me in the future.

He has sent me on beautiful adventures, both big and small so when my brain boiled with fear this week I decided to remember the beauty of Boreas Pass and how God loves me more than aspen trees.  Because of that I know that the best is yet to come.

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Stress, Sleep, and Surrender: September 2019

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Maybe you are reading this because you haven’t mastered the tick to falling asleep.  Maybe you are like me and sleep has started to evade you.  Surrendering to sleep seems like a weird thing that we do every day.  Sleep is vulnerable, we lie there, prone and oblivious to all that is going on in the world, and yet without it we will waste away.  Worrying about what will happen to me while I sleep is not why I’ve had trouble slipping off into sleep.  What I get anxious about is plain old sleep and work.  My brain just won’t turn off sometimes because I am stuck in a cycle of anxiety and stress.  As I have struggled to sleep God kept reminding me He wanted my heart no matter the situation. I couldn’t control my life.  He was taking back the things that were his anyway.  God wanted me to surrender and open up about my struggles.

Finally, a little over a year ago, I told my older sister that I was struggling with sleep.  She said, “me too.”  That moment of connection was what I needed.  It was as if I had been heard.  I started to sleep soundly again.  Yet here we are deep into 2019 and I am taking a small amount of sleeping pills during the work week and I still occasionally wake up sweaty.

I am not sure why my sleep patterns haven’t fixed themselves and I am doing my best not to stress over the answer.  The best thing to do while going through a difficult or painful situation is not to ask why or try to interpret what is going on.  Struggling to figure out the meaning of my sleepless nights only led to more sleepless nights.  Maybe part of why sleep has not come easy could be my silence; my refusal to surrender to God’s will and share what He has been doing in my life.

But this September I felt challenged to open up about my sleep problems.  Every September I celebrate how God showed up when I was in the hospital due to Necrotizing Pneumonia.  I realized if I can share about how God used that pain, I needed to open up about what God was doing in my life now.  I was being selfish by holding back on talking about my sleep pain.  I would rather have God use my pain than waste it.  So I am opening up.  Millions of Americans suffer from sleep deprivation and maybe I can help.

I have learned that instead of asking God why I am awake in the middle of the night or unable to fall asleep, I want to ask God what are you doing in me?  He wants my heart no matter the situation.  So each night I am practicing letting go of my own desires.  God has taken care of my finances, my wife, my health, and everything else I have surrendered to him.  If I do not sleep well, he gives me what I need to make it through the next day.

I do not want to keep silent about my sleep or lack thereof because God has been too good to me and I want to praise him for that.  At night when I can’t sleep, I have decided to sit with Him and pray.  Some nights I leave my bed and go to the couch where I sit with my hands palm up on my knees.  I breathe deeply and listen for God.  I think of the beauty I have seen in His world and know that He is in control.  I surrender to him and trust that if He can make a world where Aspens exist, He can love me even in my stress. He might never heal me of this sleep problem, but all the while He is making me into the man he created me to be.  And isn’t that the ultimate adventure?

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Stress and Sleeplessness

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Teachers live for summer, right? Freedom for adventure right at your feet, or just to use the bathroom whenever. Oh and all the extra sleep, but sleep started to stress me out during the summer of 2018.

Yes, that was over a year ago, but for the longest time I felt like if I talked about how much I was struggling to sleep, my sleep patterns would worsen.  But I don’t believe that anymore and here is how God helped me change my mindset.

In 2018 my adventures seemed limited to waking up in the middle of the night, taking care of my landlords house, and worrying about being able to provide for my wife.  I was attempting to control my little world but God wanted me to surrender.

When I would wake up worrying about our finances.  He would tell me he was in control anyway.  I would wake up worried about healthy eating and my physical health.  God would remind me that he has always taken care of me and that no matter what he wants the best for me. I started worrying about taking care of the house we were living in.  I didn’t want to be thinking about these things so early in the morning. Time and time again God would remind me that the best life is a life surrendered to him.

Yet, I stressed on.  I wanted to be able to provide for April, buy us a house, and make us successful.  Surrender is difficult, so I didn’t sleep.

Without sleep, my rhythm has been off. I cannot blame it on where I live, bad air conditioning, poor heating, or the fact that my wife is a furnace.  Figuratively and literally! When we are next to one another in bed my body temp starts to rise, which doesn’t let me sleep.  Like I said, last summer I started stressing about many different things, but most of all I stressed about how hot I was when I was hoping to be asleep or I would stress about sleep.

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A little history on my sleep patterns.  When I was in the seventh and eighth grade I started struggling to fall asleep because I was too busy thinking up the statistics for Terrill Davis and the other Denver Broncos. During 1998, when TD would run for 2008 yards on the season, I started calculating what he needed to do to reach that feat each night as I lay in bed.  Soon sleep outweighed my desire to not worry about stats.  My solution was a fan to drown out my thoughts.  Over the years the fan has morphed into prayer time at night, a thankfulness journal, and a rain noise app on my phone.

On nights when none of these solutions worked, I used I would envision a peaceful field or hike and I would take myself into that situation and fall into a dream so over the last year when I just couldn’t fall back to sleep I was unsure what to do when my mind would not shut off.

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I felt like I was lost in a sleep deprived haze.  My brain buzzed.  I was waking up with my heart pounding and in a puddle of sweat. I was stressed, but I didn’t want to talk about it and this made me feel alone. Why was this happening? Over the last year I feel like I would turn a corner and recapture that mythic ability to sleep through the night and then I would go and talk about it.  Someone would ask me, “how are you sleeping” and I would crash.  I was convinced that if I talked about my sleep, I would start stressing about it, and therefore, I wouldn’t sleep well.  So I kept silent. I refused to surrender and my adventure seemed to stall out.  But that would change in September.  More on that next week.

 

My Little Sister

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Emmy is an award that we have won.  She’s my little sister and she makes being an older brother joyful.  I love having a little sister.  It’s like having a built in friend who will join in on hikes, sit down on the couch with me and binge watch Psych, and stand up with me at my wedding.

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Emmy is life and she knows how to live it.  You know that’s right!  I remember the first time I held her.  I was nine-years-old and the bundle of energy in my arms had to be the most amazing answer to prayer ever.  At age zero and a couple of days, I could tell her small hands and toes were just meant to be tickled.  Her laugh and smile held boundless potential.  Most of that potential was spent making me smile.

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As an older  brother, I thought it was my job to make her smile.  This didn’t always mean being a goof for her, but sometimes attempting to guide her in the right direction.  What big brother doesn’t want to help his little sister avoid all the bumps, scrapes, and mistakes he made growing up.  Wisdom abounded and I knew I wanted to guide her along the way.

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Emmy never brushed her hair when she was little.  It was a wild brown mess.  A birds nest.  So I made a bet with her. Brush your hair for 20 straight days and if she did, I would have to pay her 20 dollars, but if she didn’t manage to brush her hair every day, I’d take home the money.

C’mon son! I don’t remember what I spent that 20 dollars on.  My intent was to help her learn  hygiene and I was willing to pay her to do so.  Emmy was a grumpy Gus, but paid up begrudgingly, but no, I didn’t earn anything for brotherly love.

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My little sister didn’t need me to teach her how to brush her hair.  If I remember correctly, she started brushing her hair last week, or in middle school.  I’ve heard it both ways. Anyway, she now has long beautiful hair and great hygiene.  She wasn’t too apt to listening to my future guidance.  It took me a while to realize that it wasn’t my job to guide Emmy and her true guide was Christ.  He forgave my controlling missteps into Emmy’s life, thankfully so did she.

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Emmy is a wild adventurous girl.  As a kindergartner she went on a hike and started her adventure with Christ.  As adventurous as Emmy is, Christ is even more of an adventurer.  He did not let her go.  After a wild high school experience where we weren’t sure if she would graduate He sent her to Guatemala.  I never stopped praying for her and joy filled me when God broke through. She was serving the underprivileged in the third world.  She came back a stronger woman and with a calling.

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She returned alive in Christ and even more my little sister than ever.  But even more than Emmy being my little sister, she is a great friend.  She may have thought that she could do everything I could do whens he was nine and I was 18, namely go for an all-nighter with my high school friends.  Face flaming with furry, Emmy stormed down the stairs. Turns out, she thought I was going on an adventure and wanted to join me.

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Now. her adventurous attitude inspires me.  She works as child whisperer at an in-between home for foster children.  Her stories are filled with curse words, mostly the ones the boys at her home hurl at her.  She is firm with them and I can tell that they love her.  Maybe because she tricks them into arm wrestling and doesn’t take any of their crap.  Maybe I did train her well cause she stopped taking my crap long ago.

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I am proud that April asked her to stand next to her as her maid of honor because I know she is strong enough to have our backs. She is a hiker.  A fighter.  She loves boldly, is a faithful friend, and needs a puppy in her life, just like me.  I am so glad I can call her my little sister.

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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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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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