Our Journey - Part IV (wedding planning and the Big Day)

(Just now reading Our Journey series?  Catch up on Part I, Part II, and Part III.)

The night of our engagement ended with a small family birthday celebration at my mom's house.  I remember being excited about the gifts but couldn't stop sneaking glances at my sparkling ring.

And my family was excited.  Well, is there a mixture of shocked and slightly happy?  If so, maybe that's what they were.

And to be fair, they had just moved their first of 3 daughters out of the house.  They sent me off to college with a long-distance boyfriend who I saw maybe once every couple of months, so there wasn't much to worry about there.  I had a full ride to University of Memphis and had been talking about the medical field for the past couple of years.  I was rooming with the "pastor's daughter", so there was no chance of getting into any trouble at school :)

And now, 8 months into my college career, still a college Freshman I was engaged.

Let's just say, while we had their blessing, it took a little bit of time for them to warm up to idea.

It took everyone a little bit of time to warm up to idea.

That night I drove back to my dorm room in my 87 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme with thoughts and wedding plans flying around in my head.

We decided on January 3, 2004 as our wedding date, and I quickly began planning.

This was long before Pinterest was around, and really before much wedding planning was done online.  So, I grabbed a few magazines and a 2 inch thick invitation catalog and got to work.

We traveled to Brinkley, Arkansas in a caravan of about 20 girls and women (the shop was REALLY happy about that) and found my dress. It was a strapless, with a band of sequins around the top and down the back and a simple veil to match.  The bridesmaids found their all black 2 piece spaghetti-strapped dresses - but to be a little edgier, they unanimously decided to tuck the straps in to create a strapless look.  And, I thought the perfect accessories for us all would be long gloves - black for the bridesmaids and white for me.  I'm telling you, we had style.

M and I found black suits at a small local tux rental store for the groomsmen, and to "set M apart", we picked out a jacket that was longer than the other's.

During that same spring, our pastor announced that he and his family were moving to Colorado to plant a church.  My roommate and best friend, our pastor's daughter, would be going with them.  While I understood their calling and need to leave, I was devastated to not have her by my side.

(A little history on our friendship - My dad got a job in Memphis in 1995 and moved our family from California to Olive Branch, MS.  He had already found Christ Pres. and we started attending in July of that year.  The church was planted just a year and a half before, so W and I were the only ones our age.  From our first conversation - well, her talking and my listening (do you see a trend in my relationships?) - over orange juice and donuts, we were inseperable.)

So, that summer, M and I decided to take our first road trip to Fort Collins, CO to visit them.

Let's just say that we REALLY got to know each other on that trip.

Let's just say, there may or may not have been a 2 hour debate about whether Salina, KS was pronounced "suh-lee-nuh" or "sun-lie-nuh".

Let's just say, that we may or may not have involved the poor innocent tollbooth worker in our ridiculous debate.

Let's just say, that the 2 hour debate may or may not have been followed by an hour long silence over said debate.

What can I say?  We were young and in.....over our heads?  No, love.  Let's stick with love.

The reason I bring up this trip is because an important part of our relationship and soon to be marriage was brought to my attention while we were out there.

One day, while sitting and talking to my best friend's mom about marriage, she asked me a question to the effect of, "So, are you ready for a life in the ministry?"  Not, was I ready to marry a minister.  Not, was I ready to be a part of a church.  But, a LIFE in the ministry.  She helped explain what that would mean, but I don't think I fully understood at the time.  But that conversation stuck with me.

We came back to reality.

I started my sophomore year of the UofM, living at home this time.  I was taking 18 hours, working 30 hours a week, commuting an hour in the car each day, and somehow managed to finish wedding planning.

M, by this point, was working full-time as the youth director at our church, planning the rehearsal dinner and honeymoon, and looking for a place for us to live after we were married.

We found a cute apartment right by the UofM.  It was an old house that was converted into 4 apartments - we had the bottom left section.  It had one bedroom, a small living room, bathroom, kitchen, washer & dryer, hardwood floors, and a small front porch.  It was a tiny place, but it was our place.  And I loved it.

Our church family graciously threw us an engagement party, a couple showers, and helped in numerous ways with the wedding.  They knew we had nothing to start out with, and by the time the wedding rolled around, we had a furnished apartment and everything we could possibly need.  We were blessed.

On January 3, 2004, we were blessed with temps in the 60s.  It was an absolutely beautiful day.

I packed that morning for our honeymoon in Lake Tahoe.  It's a miracle I remembered everything.  Mike's best man picked up my bags.  I remember thinking, this is it.  Here we go.

We had absolutely no money, so I showed up at the church an hour and a half before I needed to be ready and did my own hair and makeup.  My sisters, bridesmaids and I got ready together and enjoyed being with each other.  The helped me into my dress and veil, and I pulled on my long silk gloves.

M and I didn't see each other before the ceremony, so my anxiety and nervousness were through the roof.

About 15 before 7:00 PM, we all lined up in the church hallway.

Our grandparents and parents were being seated.

Arm in arm with my Dad, I began to get cold feet.

But not the cold feet meaning I didn't want to get married.

My cold feet were sheer fear of having all eyes on me as I walked slowly down the aisle.  I seriously think I may have passed out if I wasn't holding on to my dad's arm.  I was shaking.

One by one the bridesmaids entered the sanctuary doors to Canon in D.

The doors closed.

We took our places.

The song changed and the doors were opened.

I took a deep breath and stepped onto the white plastic runner that ran down the center aisle.

Everyone stood.

My nerves died down.  I didn't notice everyone around me.  My eyes were on my soon-to-be husband. And his eyes were on me.

I don't have a clue what was said throughout the ceremony.  I just remember feeling blessed that so many people showed up that day.  That we were surrounded by friends and family who were and would continue to be a support to our marriage.  That God had orchestrated this moment to be even though I, in no way, deserved any of it.

We were pronounced husband and wife and we.....well, you know.....kissed.

In front of 300 people.

And I am not one for public displays of affection.  At. All.  (Not that there's anything wrong with it.)

We exited and rode in our limo, with all of our wedding party, to Getwell Road United Methodist Church's gym for our reception.

We danced beneath sparkling white Christmas lights, ate delicious food that some dear women in the church had prepared, and left through a runway of glistening sparklers.

The night was perfect.

(To be continued...)

THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU to all that have purchased T-shirts for our adoption!

We are currently at 56 shirts sold......6 over our goal for today!

We feel truly blessed!

I'll be placing the order tomorrow, so if you you haven't ordered and would still like to, you have until Noon.   Thank you again!


Our Journey - Part III (M Pops the Question, I say Yes!)

(Just starting to read our story?  Check out Part I and Part II of our journey!)

Our first official "date" (although I wouldn't admit to anyone that we were actually "dating" - we were just "doing dating things") consisted on M shopping for some new clothes at American Eagle and Gap (he was stylin'!) and ended at the coffee shop inside Barnes and Noble just down Winchester.

Even though I was skeptical and slow to admitting it, something was intriguing about this guy.

He was super talkative, transparent, honest, and most of all, it was evident he loved Jesus.

Not to mention, kinda cute.

But he loved Jesus in a new and fresh way - in a way that was intriguing, contagious, and REAL.

The story of Christ's redemptive work in our lives, despite the brokenness in our families, despite the brokenness in our own hearts and lives, was magnetic in our budding relationship.

I think we talked for 2 hours in that little corner of the coffee shop.

And agreed to meet again soon.

This was September of 2002.  By February, there was already talk of marriage.

Marriage, y'all.

Looking back on this time, I still can't believe things progressed so quickly.

And everyone else couldn't either.

I mean, I was 18 at the time.  Eight.  Teen.

I was barely out of the house.  Barely on my own.  Barely experiencing the freedom college life had to offer.

My foggy-brained, starry-eyed gaze trumped my aspirations to finish college and go to med. school.

Others, and even myself at times, found this to be crazy.  I was too young.  I had my whole life ahead of me.  I had aspirations.  And goals.  And dreams.

But I have a God who is sovereign in all things.  A God who holds my meager, insignificant and yet utterly significant life in His hands, a God who does not make mistakes.  And although I didn't know it at the time, he was orchestrating and molding my life into what He wanted it to be.  HE wanted it to be.  And the desires of my heart were not being torn away from me.  Rather, Jesus was working in and changing my heart.  His desires were becoming my desires.

And as much as I love and adore my, now, husband, He is not meant to be the object of my desire, but, rather, Christ.  But I believe, my relationship with my, then, boyfriend, now, husband, was a means by which he was drawing me closer to Himself and leading me down the path he predestined for my life.

So, Valentine's Day 2003, M and I ate a delicious meal at Macaroni Grill, made a stop at the fairly new Wolfchase Galleria, then headed home.

On the way home, as we were listening to "our song" by Lifehouse (come on, y'all, you know you liked that band too), M brought up the big M.


I was utterly speechless.

Not the kind of speechless where you don't say anything for a few minutes, then regain your composure.  This was literal speechlessness.  As in, I LITERALLY did not utter a word from Wolfchase until we stopped in the Olive Branch Park.  A good 40 minute drive.

This took the whole "my head is reeling" from the time I opened that email in my dorm room to a Whole.  Nutha.  Level.  (Coach from Mad TV reference anyone?)

M put his white Honda in park.  He let me sit silently until I was ready to speak.

I finally opened my mouth and uttered, "yes, let's get married."

We hadn't decided when M was going to propose, because naturally that would be a surprise, but we had decided that M, in fact, would propose.

On March 20, 2003, my 19th birthday, while I was working at Signs First in Memphis, M called and said he'd wanted to pick me up from my mom's house in Olive Branch.

I agreed to meet him there but needed to drive back to the dorm to change clothes and "freshen up."

Feeling adventurous and a little giddy because it was my birthday, I picked out pink American Eagle corduroy pants, a black mock turtleneck, and black clogs - only the classiest attire for my guy.

I drove the 30 minutes to my house to find M waiting for me outside.

I hopped in the car.  M proceeded to blindfold me.  And we were on our way.

I never asked where we were going.  We were at the point in our relationship that "it didn't matter where we were going as long as we were together."

We arrived at our destination.

M led me inside.

He untied the blindfold.

What I saw was beautiful.

Our church sanctuary was decorated with a Christmas tree strung with white lights on the stage.  The lights were dim.  Candles adorned the steps.  Everything was glittering and twinkling.

A mixture of giddiness and dim lights caused me to miss the most important thing that adorned the tree.

A ring box.

And what followed is kind of a blur in my mind.

I remember M pulling up a scrap of paper from his pocket and reading it to me.  I'm sure it was wonderful, and I wish we still had it.  But the memory and feelings I had at the time are what I can reminisce about now.

He got down on one knee and asked me if I would spend my life with him.

I must have uttered "yes" though the exact memory escapes me.

He slipped the ring on my finger.

(This was the ring that he had matched perfectly to a picture I had showed my roommate.  He'd picked it out from a jeweler in the same mall where we'd had our first date.)

We embraced.

We tried to sit down and eat the meal of Applebees takeout though the butterflies in my stomach hardly allowed me to enjoy a bite.

We were REALLY doing this.

We were really getting married.

And I couldn't have been happier.

( To be continued....)

If you haven't ordered your T-SHIRT for our adoption, there's still time!  

Only $20!

Click on the link in the right hand column ------->

Thank you!!


Our Journey - Part II (How M & I started dating)

So, you remember that email?  The one with the poem?  The one that I was CERTAIN was about September 11?

(Missed yesterday's installment?  No worries.  Click here to catch up!)

And, of course, you remember my roommates quick response.  And then my followup response.

Needless to say, I was in disbelief.

I mean, there was no way, ABSOLUTELY no way, she could be right about M's feelings.

{ Little did I know, she was, indeed, fully, 100%, absolutely, positively correct - M had a little crush. }

The order of the next couple of events are a little fuzzy to me.  Somehow, M showed up at our pastor's house to talk about a potential relationship with me and also pulled my roommate aside at church to talk about the same thing.

 What I do know is that both times, the response was the same - shock, then laughter, then 'are you serious?', then 'oh, you're serious', then 'hmmm',  then 'wow.....ok.....', then 'you know what, that just might work'.

In both of their defense, and in case you overlooked this last time, I grew up in our church and had barely graduated high school and M had been hired as the youth director.  I repeat, the YOUTH DIRECTOR.  While absolutely nothing was wrong about the situation, it caught people off guard.  It caught ME off guard.

{ Little did I know that this was just the beginning of people being caught off guard. }

The next Friday, my younger sister was on the Homecoming Court at her high school's football game.  M contacted me and asked if I was going (of course I was) and said he was going too - because he was her youth director also.  He asked if we could talk.

Now remember I mentioned that I was in a long-distance relationship?

Well, I agreed to talk at the game.  I thought the least I could do was to hear him out.  Besides, I wasn't looking to date anyone else.  Or so I thought.

So we met.  And talked.  Ok, fine.  He talked.  I listened.

And honestly, I have no idea what was said.

Watching my sister on homecoming court was a blur (sorry Jess).  My head was reeling.  At the very least, M's interest in me caused me to reflect on my current relationship.

{ Little did I know just how quickly things would change. }

After much contemplating (I'm an introvert, so there is always MUCH introspection with any given situation) and some long talks with my roommate, I ended my long-distance relationship.

And I took the time to enjoy my single life.

And by 'took the time' what I really meant was that I needed 1 week.

One week until I received a phone call from M inviting me to go to the Hickory Ridge Mall with him.

I quickly obliged.

{ Little did I know this mall would play a vital role in the beginning and ending of our dating relationship. }

          { To be continued..... }




Our Journey - Part I (How I met M)

In 2001, at the age of 21, M took a job at my church as a part-time youth director.  Fresh out of college and new to the faith, he dove into uncharted waters following the call God had placed on his life.  

I was 17 at the time and about to start my senior year of high school and was dating someone else.  Being the nerd that I am, most of my time was spent on countless hours of AP work for school followed by hours of soccer practice each day.  I was busy to say the least, and as a result, pulled away from church that year.

Little did I know at the time, that THIS would be where our journey began.

And for some reason, after eating Sunday lunch with some of the youth and pastor on M's first day, I was asked to drive M home.  Just me and him.  Alone.  I have no idea how this happened. 

And if you know me, I am absolutely terrible at small talk - and was even worse then.  So, let's just say, I was awkward - he was awkward - the whole situation was just awkward.  

M was ready to get away from this shy, nerdy girl.  I was ready to just get out of this awkward situation.

Little did I know at the time, that apparently awkward people attract.

Our paths crossed each week at church with the cordial and southernly, "Hi, how are you?" and a couple of youth weekends.  Never once did it cross our minds that we would have any sort of relationship in the future.  I mean, he was my youth director, for goodness sake.

Little did I know at the time, this would be the man I would marry.

In the Summer of 2002, after I had graduated high school, we both went on a mission trip to Mexico with a group of about 20 people.  During that trip I became convinced that M had a 'crush' on my popular, outgoing, fun-loving best friend.  

Little did I know at the time, I was completely wrong.

The Fall of 2002 brought the beginning of my time at the University of Memphis.  My best friend and I were roommates who ate canned chili and macaroni & cheese for every meal, became involved an on-campus ministry called RUF, met new people, and enjoyed this new adventure in Rawls Hall.

I was loving college life but was starting to have my doubts about my long-distance high school fling.  My classes were going well and I was busy day-dreaming of a career in the medical field.

Little did I know, that my world was about to be turned upside down.

On September 11, 2002, I scooted my metal chair up to our built-in desk to check my email.  After scrolling through, I saw an email from M.  I thought it was a little strange, because we had no history of emailing each other, but quickly opened it.  What I found inside was a poem.  

Now, remember, it was September 11.  And although I was 18 and no longer in the youth group, I was naive about there ever being anything between M and I.  So, naturally, I assumed it must be a mass email poem about the September 11 events that occurred the previous year.  Because that's normal, right?

I showed it to my roommate, who quickly replied, "that is NOT about September 11."

Uh oh.

Little did I know at the time, that M was indirectly confessing his feelings for me.  And I was clueless.


{ Click on the button below the T-shirt in the right hand sidebar........thanks for supporting us! }


Adoption Update and T-Shirts for Sale!

Hi family and friends!

I know it has been quite a while since we updated on our adoption process.  To be honest, we've been taking our time because we've had such a crazy summer.  But, we are excited for Fall and to be getting back into the swing of things.  Here's what we've been up to:

  • Our family announced that Mike will be planting a church in Horn Lake, MS.  Which means, we will be putting our house on the market soon and immersing ourselves in this new community.  
  • My youngest sister got married at the beginning of August.  They left the U.S. 12 days later to teach in Bolivia for 2 years!
  • My middle sister's family moved to Jackson so that her husband can attend seminary.  He will get his Master's in Counseling as well as be the new youth director for a local church.
  • And last but certainly not least, our Home Study has been finalized!  We met with a local adoption attorney and are in what many call the "waiting period."

Many of you may be thinking, that with everything going on, pursuing adoption may seem like a crazy idea!  And we would have to agree with you!  

BUT, we believe that God is sovereign and that his timing is perfect.  Adoption is still on our hearts and minds, and we believe that God will bring us our child when he sees fit, whether that be next month or next year.  

"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope."  Jeremiah 29:11 (ESV)

We continue to ask for your prayers for our family as well as the biological family of our little one!

So, now in order to be well prepared when our little one arrives, we are selling T-shirts!

We've been working with an organization called Fund the Nations to create a shirt for this fundraiser.  They have been amazing to work with (so, if you are looking for a fundraiser for your adoption, mission trip or non-profit organization, check them out!)

You may be asking yourself....Why did you choose the phrase "It takes a village" for your shirts?

Here's why.....

  • The entire phrase "It takes a village to raise a child" is an old African proverb describing a body of people working together in the upbringing of a child.
  • The church is described as the body of Christ.  As Romans 5:12 says, "so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another."
  • In the New Testament, the word "family" or "household" is used many times to refer to the small gatherings of the church, people who were family by faith but not necessarily biologically related. These extended families of God shared everything in life together, including the raising of children. As God's covenant people, we are a vast network of brothers and sisters. We want other believers to participate in the raising of our children! We were not meant to do it alone!
  • We believe that through the process of adoption, "It takes a village...." to emotionally support our family through this process, to pray for the biological family of our child, to financially bring our son/daughter home, to love on our children, and to exemplify the many facets of Christ to our children as they grow up.

Thank you in advance for your support of our family through this process.  We couldn't do it without each and every one of you!

Use the button in the sidebar to purchase your T-shirt ----------->.  If you live locally, we can get the shirt to you, otherwise, make sure to add shipping to your cart with your T-shirt order!  If you have any questions, you can leave a comment below.

{ Just a note: These shirts are available for pre-order.  This means we will not actually order the shirts until a certain number have been ordered.  We will keep you updated! }

Love to you all,

the Winebrenners


As we wait.....

I was given a devotional book by a dear friend yesterday (how thoughtful!) called Jesus Calling.  I picked it up and read the devotion for today and it really struck a chord with me.  I have been convicted and shown my need of daily, continual prayer and communion with Christ throughout this past year.  I am NOTHING apart from Christ, and sometimes I need God to take away all security and hope IN THIS LIFE to show me that it can only be found in Him.  And it's a painful process....but oh, so sweet.  I LOVE when little 'coincidental' (as the world views them) moments happen in our life that point to the working of the Holy Spirit.  This could not be more fitting for this time in my life, so I wanted to share.

You need me every moment. Your awareness of your constant need for Me is your greatest strength.  Your neediness, properly handled, is a link to My Presence.  However, there are pitfalls that you must be on guard against: self-pity, self-preoccupation, giving up.  You inadequacy presents you with a continual choice--deep dependence on Me or despair.  The emptiness you feel within will be filled either with problems or with My Presence.  Make Me central in your consciousness by praying continually: simple, short prayers flowing out of the present moment.  Use My Name liberally, to remind you of My Presence.  Keep on asking and you will receive, so that your gladness may be full and complete.

"Pray without ceasing."  { 1 Thessalonians 5:17 }

"Until now you have asked nothing in my name.  Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full."
{ John 16:24 }


Happy New Year! (Adoption Update)

I hope everyone has had a great start to 2013!  Before I post pictures of our family Christmas (they are coming, I promise!), I wanted to update everyone on where we are in the adoption process.

Before Christmas, Mike and I completed 3 of our online courses, leaving us with only one to go!  Now we just have one course, a little bit of reading, and our fingerprinting to do before we can move forward with the home study.  Woo hoo!!!

The process for us has moved a lot slower than we anticipated in the beginning.  Partly because we have been dragging our feet a little bit, partly because of the holidays, and partly because of the stage of life we are in with 2 active preschool boys.  BUT, our social worker gave us a time frame of 6-18 months until placement once our home study is complete.  So, technically, the birth mom of our little girl could be pregnant now or will be very soon, which is so crazy to think about.  I think because I am not the one pregnant this time, I have trouble wrapping my mind around it right now.  But, as long as everything goes smoothly with the home study, we are "expecting" our little one this year or soon thereafter!

I know many of you have already been praying for us.  We are so grateful and feel so blessed to be surrounded by so many people who love and support us.  So, as I update, I'll try and leave you with a few things those of you who follow our blog can pray about.  These may be things that are coming up in the process or things that are just on our hearts at the moment.

* The birth mother of our unborn child
 -For health and protection of both she and our little one, whether or not she is pregnant at the moment.
 -That she and would be surrounded with those who love her and support her in this heart-wrenching decision to let another raise her child.
 -If she already has a relationship with Christ, that it would be strengthened in this process.  If she doesn't yet know the love of Christ, that her eyes would be opened and her soul would be forever changed.

Again, THANK YOU for all your love and support and for checking in with us!