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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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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