No, we weren’t at a bar.  You’re seeing things.

Once upon a time there was a very sad girl.  She had been through the ringer.  Her heart had been broken and damaged in a way that was incomprehensible to most.  Trust had been violated and she was left with the broken pieces of her soul around her like a shattered glass window.

She was not bitter or angry – no.  Just plain sad.  Melancholy.  Not a Debbie Downer as on the outside everyone commented on how “she was doing so well you know, considering.”  But inside the cracks were deep and splintering.  She was just different than she had been before – the kind of different you become when you have left pieces of your heart at the scene of a crime.

She decided to throw herself into obtaining a degree that would enable her to follow her passion of educating children.  She took classes that would eventually lead to a master’s degree in Educational Leadership and began dreaming dreams of becoming a school principal and district administrator.   One of the good ones.  She would throw herself into a career and make a difference that way because she had tried her hand at marriage once and it didn’t go so well.  This seemed to be the best track for her.

She was a model student.  Her professors loved her.  She loved them.  They told her she would make an excellent administrator and would be able to make a lasting and compassionate impact on education and in turn, children.  Yes.  She had found her calling.

Things were moving along rather swimmingly in the spring of 2002.  It had been a year since her world had blown up and she had begun to feel like she just might make it. Her life was not the way she had planned for it to be at the age of 28 but she had changed courses and began to accept, and actually enjoy, this new plan.

Then she met a boy.  One with a mischievous twinkle in his eye and two dimples that would turn the iciest heart into a blubbering mess of water. He was charming but not in a way that suggested mistrust or deception for the girl had known too many of those types.  He was real.  Genuine.

He looked at her like she was the most interesting thing he had ever seen.  He listened attentively.  He spoke gently.  He had also tried his hand at the marriage thing once and didn’t have much luck either.  The girl and the boy were exactly the same age.

They both felt the hand of God moving them through their trials.  They believed the same things.  They both wanted to have a house with a white fence, a dog, and babies.  They shared the same dream.

But the most important thing about this special boy?  He made her laugh harder than anyone had ever made her laugh before.  His wit and honesty literally made her wet her pants with laughter on more than one occasion.  They seemed like they might make a good team in this game called life.

While the boy could make the girl laugh, he also had a knack for gently stripping the layers that had grown over the girl from the time she was young. He rocked her neatly-preserved world by calling out her various unflattering behaviors and delving deeply into the root of the issue.  The girl had conversations with the boy about things she had never even considered.  He opened up a new understanding of her soul in a way that she would have never reached on her own.

He was the perfect package.  Almost too good to be true.  But the best thing?  He is.  He is true and real.

The boy and the girl got married.  They had three gorgeous children – one darling little girl who looks like her mama with a sensitive soul as well and two little boys with matching mischievous twinkles in their eyes and crippling dimples that even the nurses commented upon on their births.

They have had ups and downs.  They hold tight during the downs and pray to God.  They enjoy and relish the ups and pray to God then, too.

They laugh.  And they laugh.  And they laugh some more.

He continues to pull the girl out of her shell.  He has stripped more layers than the girl even knew she had.  But if asked, the boy would probably say she has done some of the same for him.

The girl  loves him so intensely and cherishes him beyond words.  At night, after the kids and are in bed, and she looks around her disheveled house and steps on a myriad of Matchbox cars on the kitchen floor, she feels blessed.  This is not the inside of a classroom (not technically) or an administration building of a school district (again, not technically).  She never did finish that advanced degree.

Her plan changed and she went with it.  She threw her fear aside.  She loves her non-principal-of-a-school life more than she ever thought she would.  Even with the imprint of a Matchbox car still warm on the sole of her foot.

Happy Birthday, JJ.  You are my true north in every way.  You melt me.  You move me.  You are my safe haven.

Ever thine, ever mine, ever ours.

Had to include this shot because he refuses to play Scrabble with me to this day.

I’m that good.

Lastly, you have to love a man that rearranges centerpieces in such an artful manner.

God help my soul.

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