LORD, hear our prayer

Sunday, July 31, 2016

This post was originally written & posted to social media on Friday, July 29th. I honestly don't have the heart to recreate a new post, but I don't really want to anyway. This time in our lives is dark but we know there's light at the end.

When Scott & I decided to announce my pregnancy, we knew it was incredibly early. We knew that society says you should wait until the second trimester, "just in case." But before we ever decided to try to have a child, we agreed that we wouldn't keep our sweet baby a secret after we found out the good news because no matter how tiny, our child was already our child. It didn't matter that the risk of miscarriage was real or that it would be "hard" to bring devastating news to our family and friends right after rejoicing in the miracle of life that we had created because this sweet baby, no matter how small, was the greatest accomplishment of our lives so far, so why in the world would we keep something so amazing from the people who love us the most?
Two nights ago while Scott was in California for annual training with the guard,the scariest moment of my life unfolded while I as alone at home. Around midnight I started bleeding, heavily, and I knew my sweet baby was in trouble. I got ahold of Scott, thank God, as I drove myself to the ER where I stayed for almost eight hours. My worst fear was confirmed when the doctor couldn't find the baby on the ultrasound. They found the gestational sac (where baby lives) but they couldn't find the yolk sac (baby) inside , and after more blood testing to check my levels, the doctor on call said I had, "lost the pregnancy." With levels so high, the baby should have been easily found, they said. It was likely I miscarried at home and there was nothing they could do. Refusing to confirm the miscarriage 100% because the OB on call couldn't make it to the ER until much later in the day, I was told to visit my doctor as soon as possible for official confirmation so they could make sure I didn't need a D&C. Those words still haunt me.
Two hours later I was sitting in my doctor's office in tears. I felt alone, scared & completely helpless as a mother to this sweet baby that I lost. The doctor offered his condolences after going over my chart, explaining how common a miscarriage is & promising to get through the appointment as fast as he could so I could go home. With the hospital saying I had lost the baby but they couldn't confirm 100% percent, I just wanted closure. I needed to hear it because I was already mourning and the doctor was confident he could give me that much before I left.
The nurse held my hand and explained I'd need another ultrasound and after what seemed like eternity, the doctor told me that he found the yolk sac. He could see this sweet little baby, just a teeny, tiny dot on the screen. You would think I'd have been rejoicing but I just cried harder. I was confused, on the other side of the country from my husband & didn't understand what was going on with my body. Some bleeding was common, he said, but mine was so heavy that he still felt that I had lost this pregnancy, but then, he said, "there's still a chance." There was a still a chance that this bleeding wasn't related to the pregnancy, that it could stop and the baby would keep growing.
Officially diagnosed with a "threatened miscarriage," I was sent home to wait. The doctor, confident that this would end in a complete miscarriage, told me not to get my hopes up. The chances are slim, but "it's possible, you're just too early to tell" he said. And so that's where we are right now. We're waiting for over a week when we go back for another ultrasound to see if they baby grows or if the baby has died.
And so I go back to the beginning of this post. Just as we decided not to wait to tell everyone about this sweet baby, we're deciding not to keep this part of our baby's journey a secret either. At first, we only told three people. Why upset everyone when we just don't know? We hit our knees and went to the Lord with prayers for us and this baby but then we realized the hypocrisy of that. If this baby were already born and going through something so scary, I'd ask for prayers from everyone I could possibly reach. I'd want everyone I knew to be praying for them, pulling for them & for us. And this sweet baby, only 6 weeks in utero, is no different. They need your prayers & so do we.
Scott & I know the odds. We know the chances and we know the statistics, but we also know Jesus. We know that if there's, "still a chance," like my doctor says, that the Lord can work a miracle if it's His will. We know that if we have faith as small as a mustard seed, faith as small as this tiny little life, that we can move mountains. What seems impossible to a doctor or a nurse is so, SO possible with God.
Most of all, Lord, I know that You formed my baby's inward parts; You wove them in my womb. I will give thanks to You, for this baby is fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well.…
Thank you for praying with us. We appreciate each one of you so much.

My Realistic Savannah, GA Elopement

Monday, June 20, 2016

I'm married. I just love saying that. Mrs. Elkins has a nice ring to it, no? I love being Scott's wife and I am obsessed with the fact that our wedding is over. I know it's usually the other way around, but ever since I said, "yes!" I've been dreading the, "I do!" To read more about that, read this post I wrote back in January.

After we got engaged last December, we started planning a small destination wedding to Siesta Key, FL for November 2016 and the stress was really getting to me. Scott didn't care at all about where / how / when we got married, he just wanted to be married! He would ask me about every Wednesday (we both have Wednesdays off and consider that “our day”) to just go to the courthouse so he could make me his wife… it was super cute and tempting but I resisted because I wanted an experience, not just a short “get it over with” type ceremony.  In March I got a nice job promotion that increased my stress by about, oh, a gazillion percent. On top of that, we were struggling to stick to our savings budget for our wedding AND furnish our house AND pay off debt AND enjoy being together, going out, etc. It was getting to be a little too much and I wasn’t enjoying the process at all. 
So, on Monday, May 9th I had reached a slight breaking point. It wasn’t a huge deal, but it was the day I said, “let’s go. Let’s just go Wednesday.” My fiance was a little caught off guard, but got excited and we started brainstorming ways to make it a little unique instead of just a typical courthouse wedding. We had some savings for the wedding already and decided we’d take some from that and try to get away for two days and do a mini vacation / elopement all in one. 
We’re pretty fortunate in that we both worked together at the time and had an awesome team, so we were able to switch some shifts at work to get Thursday – Saturday off work together. Now we had a timeline, we just needed a plan! 
I started diving into Google to find the “perfect” place within driving distance and landed upon the hidden gem that is the company, “Elope to Savannah.” 
Here is my review I wrote a few weeks back that I posted to their Facebook page that sums up our entire experience with them: 
“Incredibly happy with our experience at Elope to Savannah. We decided the week-of that we were tired and stressed out about planning a bigger wedding in November, so eloping was the perfect (and incredibly romantic) option for us! I started emailing Elizabeth at the first of the week, and she answered all my questions really fast (sometimes way late at night – totally not expected but very appreciated). Everything was SO EASY… too easy, almost. I asked questions just to “double check” and I really didn’t need to because Elizabeth takes care of everything. We stayed at Mansion on Forsyth Park (highly recommend) and walked across the street to Forsyth Park and met Elizabeth & the officiant right on time. She brought a beautiful bouquet that was exactly what I asked for & Scott’s boutonniere. The ceremony was lovely… short & sweet but not too short that we couldn’t savor the moment. Our package came with an hour of photography (starting when the ceremony started) and it was the perfect amount of time. We received over 200 pictures (way more than we expected for the price we paid) exactly one week after our ceremony (about a week before we expected to see anything). We definitely got more than what we paid for. If I were to have organized it myself, the flowers & photography alone would have cost more than what we paid for our package (we went with the Captured Memories package). I HIGHLY suggest this company for your elopement… if you want to really be stress free, not deal with ANY planning and show up with your love to the best day of your life, go with Elope to Savannah. We eloped on the first day we arrived in Savannah & had an amazing, stress-free three days to explore the town as husband and wife. Thanks, Elizabeth!!”
This package really was perfect for us. It came with everything we needed besides ourselves! Here’s what it included:
Captured Memories
  • Officiant to perform quick civil ceremony with vows and sign and file license
  • Unlimited email, text or phone consultation with Elope to Savannah consultant
  • Photography provided by a professional photographer for up to an hour with an online gallery link sent to couple after the ceremony. You will be able to download all the photos and have printing rights. You may also share the album with your friends and family with the option for them to place orders directly from the site.
  • Wedding roses are provided for the COUPLE, your choice of color. Various combinations available. Just ask us. 
  • Up to five guests allowed, up to 10 guests, with addtional guests $25 per person. See additional terms
  • Wedding in one of the downtown squares, Forsyth Park, or Tybee Island. Not available for any cemetery locations.
Here’s how our realistic budget broke down. We spent a total of $2,323.68 and we weren’t really pinching pennies at all. This really pretty chart comes courtesy of Everydollar… I am obsessed with this budgeting software! When I say this was our realistic budget, it's because as I was doing research about elopements & weddings and how people do them *incredibly* cheap, I realized most of them weren’t realistic at all. “We eloped & stayed in a 5 star hotel… thanks to my dad who owns a hotel,” and “We got married on $1000! It’s possible! Thanks to my mom who is a caterer, my brother who is a professional photographer & my sister who, as luck would have it, is a DJ!” These things are awesome if they can really happen for you, but they aren’t typical…
Everything is pretty self explanatory! The “Emergency 100” is $100 cash we took for when we couldn’t use our debit card & we also used it for gas. There’s also a Misc. category for a few things that didn’t really “fit” in a category, either.
A couple notes about how we spent our $$:
  • I got my dress on clearance at Torrid (probably the best deal of the whole dang trip!)
  • I was previously married, so I had to get a certified copy of my divorce decree from my hometown
  • We splurged on a really nice hotel and stayed for two nights, totally not necessary if you’re on a tighter budget but it was worth it to us and we had a blast!
  • I wanted to feel a little more “bridal” by getting my hair & makeup done; they did an excellent job! Hindsight? I would have just gotten my hair done and I could have just done my own makeup… I don’t regret it at all, but that’s a place we could have saved a bit. I do my own makeup pretty well, so I could have achieved the same look with my own products.
  • Gas was about $50 for the whole trip, included in the “Emergency 100” category
  • I ended up not wearing the shoes I bought because I forgot I had a pair in my closet that would work. Since I haven’t actually returned them, they are still in here as an expense! 
  • Our rings are not included in this budget for a few reasons. My engagement ring was purchased by Scott separately and my wedding band was purchased months before we decided to elope so we already had it. Scott's wedding band was purchased for less than $40 the day before we left as a place holder because I haven't purchased his ring yet. I'll be upgrading his ring soon, but that won't be part of this budget.

Here are a few pictures from our day! These pictures were taken by Elizabeth and were part of our package. NOTE: I went with the Captured Memories package because I thought we needed a full hour of photography… to be honest, I love that we got so many pictures – too many to post here – but if I would have known how seamless the whole thing was, I’d have gotten the package a step down with only 30 minutes of photography. That would have been plenty since it was just us and we weren’t looking for that many pictures.

And that’s it! We drove from Charlotte, NC to Savannah, GA first thing Thursday morning, which was about a 3.5 hour drive. We went straight to the courthouse to apply & get our marriage license before heading to the hotel where we unpacked & took a nap. If you're planning to elope to Savannah, arrive as early as you can there because you never know what the wait time will be. We were in and our in less than an hour, but I've read reviews where it sometimes takes much longer. From there, Scott dropped me off so I could get my hair / makeup done and an hour and a half later, he picked me up & we got ready together which was really special! He closed his eyes while I put on my dress & jewelry and I got to have that “reveal” moment where he saw me for the first time… then we walked across the street to the park, hand in hand, met the officiant and boom! We got married! It was the most special time for us and I wouldn't change a single thing.

After our ceremony, we went back to our hotel and changed before heading out for dinner. We spent the next two days exploring Savannah & Tybee Island with zero stress. No worries about entertaining guests, no fretting over a huge ceremony... just spending time with each other and absolutely loving the city we were visiting.

Some people have asked me if I regret eloping and the answer is a very firm no way! I can't think of a better way to start a marriage than with an intimate, sweet ceremony that doesn't break the bank followed by a weekend of relaxing with your new husband or wife. Our families (with the exception of my dad -insert eye roll here-), were so supportive and happy for us and even though they weren't there with us on our big day, we knew they only cared about one thing: our happiness. 
Thanks for sticking with me this long & if you have any questions about our super successful elopement, leave me a comment!

The Other Woman Who Killed My Marriage

Friday, March 11, 2016

I'll be honest here... I'm a closet Duck Dynasty fan. It's sort of like a guilty pleasure if you will. I couldn't tell you what season the show was on and I probably haven't watched the most recent episodes, but when I see a re-run that's on and it's 10:30am on a Saturday and I don't have plans and no one else is around to see, you better believe i'm tuned in. There's just something about this family that I love watching. They're wholesome, they love each other, they pray before they eat & even though I don't agree with all of them on every issue, I really admire their faith & their ability to overcome adversity.

Well I'm a closet fan no more. At least not when it comes to Missy Robertson, Jace's wife. I recently read one of her blog posts that went pretty viral that you can find right here & it brought tears to my eyes. This post, "I Love You, But Stay Out!" hit me right in the feels from the beginning with a verse that means a lot me:

 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” Genesis 2:24 (NIV) 

I'll preface this by saying I don't hate my ex-mother-in-law & I don't think she's a bad person at all. She loves her kids & she loves her grandchildren and I will never question whether or not she genuinely cares about each of their wellbeing. But she's a big part of why my marriage ended, whether she realized it at the time or not.

I won't drag out all the details of how and why my husband left our marriage, but the day he pulled out of our driveway, he pulled into hers. She allowed him a place to run away from our marriage & a safe space to ignore all the problems going on in his own home. Without meaning to, she became the other woman. She made dinner for him, she didn't nag him, she gave him money if he needed it & she provided him all the comforts of being back home. Why would anyone want to leave that safety net and go back to the turmoil of a crumbling marriage? 

I clearly remember the day I knew my marriage was truly over. It wasn't when I found out he was in a new relationship or when his fiancee announced her pregnancy or even when the ink dried on our divorce papers. Way before any of those other things ever happened, during one of the toughest days during our fresh separation, my mother-in-law stood in my living room & I begged her to send my husband home. With tears in my eyes & desperation in my heart she looked at me and said, "Why would I send him back here? I love having my son back home." That was the moment I knew my marriage was doomed; I couldn't and wouldn't compete with another woman. 

Now don't get me wrong here, I'm not placing blame on a third party when it comes to the mess we made of our marriage because we did most of the damage on our own. But when it came time to really dig in & work hard to save something as sacred as marriage, another woman gave my husband the opportunity to run from his responsibility as my husband. 

Sometimes I ask myself how things would have turned out if she had simply said, "Ethan, I love you but you can't come back home. You have to go back & be a husband, because now you are a husband first and my son second." Maybe the outcome would have been the same or maybe we'd have almost killed each other before slowly rebuilding our marriage into something beautiful & that's a difficult "what if" to process. 

What I do know for sure is that all of what I went through then has prepared me for where I am right now & I am so grateful for those life lessons. When I have children, I know that one day I will have to look at them and say, "I love you but you can't come back here." I will say it with love and I will say it not just because I know it's the right thing to do, but because i've lived what happens when a parent doesn't make it clear that after marriage, home is where your spouse is, not your parents. 


Thank You for sending me my future husband, Scott. I thought I'd never get the chance to be a good
wife who got to work on strengthening her marriage again but You sent me the most amazing man. With him has come an amazing set of parents who share the same values that I do. Lord, You knew that I'd be scared to death but You reassured me and calmed my fears by sending me a Godly soon-to-be mother-in-law that knows why You spoke those words in Genesis. Thank You for giving me this gift so that I can feel confident that I don't have to compete with another woman within my own marriage. Lord, I pray that when those nights come and we both want to just run "home" to the comfort of being a child cradled in the arms of our parents, that You remind us of Genesis 2:24. Lord, I am so grateful for Your forgiveness & I'm humbled that You still love Ethan and I & still bless the both of us even after we failed so miserably at keeping our promises to You. Thank You for giving us both new relationships & for the sweet blessings we have in our lives that are all because of You. Amen. 

The Casualties Along the Way

Sunday, February 7, 2016

If I'm being 100% honest with you myself, I've been s t r e t c h i n g the truth a bit about how much I've healed from my past & how comfortable I am with my present. Don't get me wrong, I am exponentially happier than I've ever been and I don't doubt for one second that I'm right where God wants me to be. But the journey to where I am now has been anything but smooth and while I wish it weren't the case, there have been casualties along the way.

By comparison of where I was two years go, I am a completely different woman. The reflection in my mirror wouldn't recognize the girl who lived on Elbow Road once upon a time, and although I sometimes I forget that the old me existed, there are still moments when the reality of my past hits me and I have to process that Olivia Lowman & Olivia Pitman really are the same girl.

After Scott proposed, I decided that I couldn't get married until I made amends with everyone in my past that was either hurt by me or because of me or who got caught in the path of the storm that was the ending of my marriage. At the time, the list was very short & at the top of it was Scott's ex-fiance. I will make this portion of my story very short & sweet, because that part of his life is not really my story to tell. Although [disclaimer] we did not start dating until his last relationship ended, I would be lying if I said we didn't start a relationship very quickly after they went their separate ways. Although I did hang out with her some you could say she and I weren't exactly BFFs and that would not be an overstatement. Fast-forward to last week and I finally got up enough courage to reach out to her. While the conversation was not hearts & rainbows, I got to give her an apology that had been on my heart for a long time & even though she didn't want it, she deserved to have it. Although I didn't reach out to her selfishly or expect her to make me feel better, getting that off my chest gave me an unexpected sense of peace about a portion of my past I was less than proud of. For a brief moment, Olivia Lowman collided with Olivia Pitman as the latter apologized for the actions of the former, wounds I didn't realize were still open started to heal.

This chapter sounds like it may have a happy ending but it would be remiss of me to stop here. This weekend I started talking to someone who knew me before I was the new Olivia. I had a very fantastical idea that because Scott & I had found happiness and because Ethan & I were no longer on bad terms, everyone else around us would also be incredibly supportive & we'd get to ride off into the metaphorical sunset together and live happily ever after. After hours of texting this very sweet friend & going from zero to sixty on the emotional spectrum more times than I can count, I was forced to realize my fantasy was not reality. I'll spare you the novels of texts and give you this spoiler alert: the list of people that I want to make amends with has continued to grow.

No, I'm not on steps eight & nine of a recovery program, although I completely understand why they're so important for those struggling with rehabilitation. I'm simply taking the road less traveled instead of the main highway; rather than starting over completely & leaving my past entirely in the dust, I'm allowing the real Olivia - the one with baggage & skeletons in her closet - the chance to live.

One of my biggest pet peeves in school used to be the really smart kids who would come to class on exam day & declare that they hadn't studied at all. Once they got their near-perfect scores back, they'd say their grade was sheer luck. It drove me crazy. Too embarrassed to admit they'd spent countless hours hunched over a desk & too cool to be thought of as a "nerd," these bright kids were almost ashamed of their involvement in academia and borderline apologetic for their success.

Well, luck did not bring me here and I've been studying for this "exam" for twenty-five years. Unapologetically I've learned from every mistake I've made & while I often describe the part of life i'm in by giving myself different titles such as Olivia Lowman, Olivia Pitman, Soon-To-Be-Olivia Elkins and The New Olivia, it is essential that I remind myself and others that we're all the same girl.

So, I may not actually get to reach out to each person that I've decided to make things right with before I get fact, that's not my goal any longer. My new goal is to keep the list open & never stop allowing myself to apologize and improve relationships. Instead of putting myself on a time line, I'm giving myself permission to heal every single day. Instead of running away from who I used to be, I'm allowing myself to embrace that while I've grown up, I haven't transformed into a stranger; I don't have to abandon every part of my past & it's okay to not want to.

On this journey of not just improving my life, but reclaiming it, I am learning something new about myself every single day and today I'm learning that it isn't too late to reclaim the casualties that suffered along the way.

Matthew 5:23-34
Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.

I'm Engaged & I Couldn't Care Less About This Ring Or My Wedding

Thursday, January 21, 2016

I have a confession: I am a terrible bride-to-be. 

A few weeks  days hours after Scott proposed & we announced our engagement publicly, the questions started to pour in. What cut is that diamond? How many carats? Did you pick it out? How do you feel about it being a double halo instead of a single halo? When's the big day? What kind of wedding will you have? I'm going to be a bridesmaid, right? A-line or ball gown? Inside or outdoor? Who will marry you? And, well, you get the idea.

For a brief moment in time, I thought about posting a status that simply said, "I suck at this. Please refer all questions about rings / weddings / marriage to Scott" but I didn't want to do that to the poor guy because, after all, I do love him. 

The truth is, the answer to almost all of these questions is very simple. I either don't know, or I don't care. 

Now, don't get me wrong. I really do love my engagement ring. Scott picked it out & he couldn't have done a better job. Split shank, double halo, cushion cut... it's gorgeous and I don't deserve to wear something so beautiful every single day. I'm so honored that God chose me to be his wife & that the symbol he used during his proposal was so stunning. But the reality is, I don't care about the ring itself.  He could have asked me to marry him with a bread tie and I'd have said yes just as emphatically. It isn't about the ring.

It will be one month tomorrow that I said, "yes" to the man of my dreams and we finally sat down to discuss our plans a few nights ago after putting it off every night prior. Almost in tears, I looked at Scott and said, "I feel so guilty and I don't want you to hate me, but, I don't want to plan a wedding. My heart just isn't in it & i'm not excited about our big day like I should be." Because he's perfect, he smiled softly and asked me to calm down and explain. 

I really couldn't care any less about my wedding because my wedding is not important to me. My marriage is what is important to me. When I look at our budget, I see all this money we could save and spend on one day and I get a sick feeling in my stomach. How many other memories could we make with this kind of money? How many people could we help? 

Scott and I have a fund for our house so that we can furnish it and we've been really good about saving & spending...until about a week ago when I saw a commercial for a dinosaur exhibit on TV. I immediately thought of Scott's nephew and how much he loves dinosaurs. He's obsessed with them and I knew how much it would mean to him if we got to take him there. It was kind of expensive, especially for the "T-Rex" package that I wanted to get for him, so I talked to Scott who was incredibly eager to take him, too. We decided to just take the money out of our "house" fund and I couldn't be more happy that we did. 

Did it mean that we'll have to wait to get more things for our house? Yup. But those were things we don't need anyway. Instead, we had a day filled with memories and we made one little kid the happiest boy in the world. We gave him an experience he wouldn't have had otherwise, and I don't regret a single thing. But what does this have to do with a wedding, you ask? Have a I rambled too far? Exactly. It has nothing to do with a wedding and that's my point. If we could take $200 out of our materialistic house fund to make our nephew's day, what could we do with thousands? How many people could we touch? How many memories could we build? How many blessing bags could I afford to pass out? 

It's not about the wedding day. It's about every single day after the day we say, "I do." When I dream about the best day of my life, I dream of every morning waking up to my husband's face and the smile that appears when he realizes I've made his favorite coffee already. 

I dream of stealing our nieces and nephews for the day and spoiling them too much. 
I dream of visiting my little sister & taking her to the movies.
I dream of renting a beach house that our whole family can stay in one summer. 
I dream of Biltmore at Christmas.
I dream of having all of our family together at one time. 
I dream of praying together.
I dream of hot chocolate by our fireplace (that I begged for & he gladly gave me).
I dream of writing a check that I never thought I could write to a local non-profit.
I dream of picking an angle off a tree and making their dreams come true.
I dream of family dinners in our dining room.
I dream of the children we'll have.
I dream of the moments.

And to top it all off, I have the best fian in the world. After I poured out my heart to him, he smiled. The same thing has been on his heart, too. 

I'm not saying we won't have a wedding or a wedding reception, because we will. There may be wedding showers & engagement parties & professional pictures taken that I'll cherish forever, but those material things won't be where my heart is. 

That doesn't mean I'm not a little excited about walking down the aisle and exchanging vows between my love, because I really do think it will be a special time for us. But you can bet my wedding dress won't cost more than a mortgage payment & I'm not sure if what we serve our wedding cake on will be disposable or "real". It won't look like Pinterest exploded on our wedding day, and that is perfectly fine with me.
So I may not be looking forward to a date circled on a calendar & I might not be taking joy in the upcoming bridal expo in Charlotte that I can't bring myself to attend, but I'm looking forward to every day after that day that I get to fall asleep next to the person God chose especially for me.
Thank you, Lord, for blessing me so richly when I am so undeserving of it all. 

I upgraded (and so did my ex-husband).

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

A few nights ago I was driving home from work with my left hand positioned on the steering wheel at just the right angle so that as I slowed to a stop in my driveway, I was left to gaze at my engagement ring in a very typical "just engaged" fashion. The diamond sparkled beautifully in the dim lighting of the night & it fit like a dream. "Damn," I thought to myself, "I upgraded."

It is no secret that this is not my first engagement, and it won't be my first marriage either. There are days that I am still ashamed of that fact because I, too, once preached that "my first marriage will be my only marriage" and "divorce wasn't an option - ever." But the reality is that divorce was an option and the reason my first marriage didn't make it was precisely because I didn't believe it could ever fail. That, I learned, was my biggest mistake during the years of calling myself Olivia Lowman. I believed that my marriage was invincible and I did not need to protect it because we were simply going to make it. Divorce was not going to happen and no matter what, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, for better or for worse (or really worse or oh-my-God-can-it-even-get-any-worse) we were going to stay married until "death do us part."

So as I sat in my driveway gazing longingly at my new bling, I looked up a the house that Scott and I built together and I reflected on how so much has changed over the past few years. The biggest change of all, I noticed, was the change in myself. A few years ago, I was a self-admitted mess. I was selfish & unforgiving, depressed, anxious, and a slew of other adjectives that you'd never put on a resume, including unhappy...and so was my ex-husband. The key word in that sentence? Was.

We were awful at being married. Friends and family of my ex may read this and think, "well no wonder he was awful, you were awful," and my friends and family may read this and think, "he was the awful one, he's even the one that left," but the truth is, he's just the one that drove away. In different ways, we both left our marriage long before the separation began and yes, even though I did try to salvage the marriage and begged him to come home, I don't really blame him for not wanting to. Now let me make one thing clear, no matter how cringe-worthy it may be for anyone to read: My ex-husband & I could have made it work. We could have done a lot of things differently during our marriage and at the bitter end, we didn't make the right choice. This is a simple truth that any person who calls themselves a Christian already knows to be true: divorce is not God's plan and He hates it. We should still be married to this day & if we had stuck through the darkest part of our marriage, we'd probably be okay right now. 

I say this because I don't want anyone reading this who is married & going through a really rough patch - or perhaps even their own separation or divorce - to think my point in writing this is to glorify divorce & remarriage. God can take the most broken marriage & the most broken husband or wife and He can change their heart. He can mend what we think can't be fixed. He can heal the wounds we think are too deep to repair. He can rebuild the trust we don't think we can offer to our spouse anymore. He can restore joy inside the heart of the most depressed... I could go on and on and on. But for those who don't truly know that yet, and for those who allowed the enemy to step in and make a decision that we should have given to God, there is grace. 

I walked inside and unloaded the day's baggage before making my way upstairs. I made a mental note of how big our new house really is, not just in square feet but in the blessing of getting to live here. When I got upstairs I found my reflection in the bathroom mirror as I washed off the day's makeup. As I stared at myself with my hair back, make-up off, and jewelry put away I repeated the same thought I had in the driveway with an amendment: "I upgraded, and so did Ethan." 

If you haven't caught on, I'm not talking about diamonds. I'm not talking about the new person I'm sharing my life with or the house we're calling a home. I'm talking about myself. The version of Olivia that Scott proposed to isn't the same as the version of Olivia that was married to Ethan. The version of Ethan that Sarah falls asleep next to every night is not the same version of Ethan that I was married to. Thank God, right? 

We upgraded. 
We grew up. 
We made mistakes & we punished ourselves far more harshly than we needed to. 
We lived & we learned. 
We became forgiving.
We became better listeners.
We became trusting.
We became trustworthy.
We became happy.
We upgraded.

And I'm going to take a second to do something else that's typically taboo. I'm going to brag about my ex for a second, because like it or not, I will always have a soft spot in my heart for the person I shared almost a decade of my life with. So here goes: I'm proud of him & Sarah. She wasn't around to hear it, but he's been talking about being a dad since he was 16. I knew he'd be an amazing father & now he is. He has two beautiful sons with a truly beautiful woman. They've blended their family together & Ethan works hard to provide for them. I don't doubt for one second that Upgraded Ethan is doing everything I always knew he was capable of & I am beyond thankful that he's in a relationship that makes him happy. That was always our wish for each other in the beginning & that wish has come true...maybe in a slightly different fashion that we envisioned so many years ago, but it's come true none the less.

As for Upgraded Olivia? The Lord has blessed me beyond measure. I was telling a friend last night on the phone that as soon as I stopped trying to control my life and I let God have the reins, things fell into place. I am engaged to the most patient & kind man. Scott is more than I could have dreamed and hoped for...he is truly who I prayed for. He shows me the love of the Lord every day through his actions & through his words. He does not envy, he doesn't boast and he isn't proud. Scott doesn't dishonor other people and he isn't self-seeking. He doesn't get angry quickly and he never keeps a record of what I do wrong. He rejoices in truth and doesn't delight in evil. My fiance always protects me. He always trusts me and hopes with me. He perseveres. He never fails me.

It's quite fitting that this is my last blog post of 2015. All of us are ready for 2016. It will be a year of so much excitement. Engagement parties, wedding showers, marriages, children's birthday parties, time with family and the chance to keep upgrading every. single. day. 

My handsome fiance, me, Ethan & his beautiful wife-to be. Happiness, the Lord's blessings and upgrading looks good on everyone. 

Happy new year. 

Building 6610

Sunday, December 13, 2015

When I started this blog I said I may not be posting regularly, but oops. I didn't mean to go two months with radio silence. Silence on the blog doesn't means silence in real life, though...on the contrary! Scott and I have been so busy with work and life and perhaps we've been the busiest with just waiting for our first HOME to be built!  I thought I'd share a few pictures of the process before doing our big reveal once we close... which is happening in NINE days!

Scott has lived in our apartment since before we started dating, and when we began our relationship & I moved in and started helping out with the bills... woah, did the price of rent smack me in the face. I had previously paid a mortgage that was much less than what we've been paying monthly and Scott longed to have a home that was really his. So, rather quickly, we started looking into real estate in our area. We went "neighborhood shopping" for a few weeks before realizing how affordable building a house is in our area right now. Where I'm from, neighborhoods don't just pop up all the time so building typically requires purchasing land and then hiring a contractor to build the home. Here, though, real estate is exploding and there are tons of neighborhoods in development. We visited probably one million model homes which was really fun at first but then became incredibly exhausting. We finally found the perfect one & in June of this year, we signed our names on the line and began the tedious process of hurry up & wait.

I'd like to tell you that the whole process was just plain exciting & fun and that there were no fights that lasted through the night about what color granite would go in the kitchen and whether or not the fireplace would go in the middle of the wall or the corner or if we'd even have one at all, but I'm an honest girl. I'm incredibly grateful that Scott really puts me first and that at 1am when I'm almost in tears over a fireplace (in retrospect, I may have been PMSing at the time), he simply took my hand and said, "Baby, call the builder first thing. Let's add the fireplace. And let's go to bed."

Overall, after one or two bouts of doubting all the choices we made, though, the process was incredibly easy. Scott & I both have very similar tastes and we had a long list of "musts" and "wants" and "we can live withouts" that made narrowing down the floor plan & choices rather easy. We ended up going with Ryland homes in the floor plan Landrum - D. Thankfully, we were able to visit a few homes in this floor plan, so we weren't going in too blindly. It blows my mind how some people are able to look at a paper and decide on a plan...I'm way too visual for that.

We pretty randomly picked out our lot without thinking much about it. In fact, this was the first lot the sales person showed us and we loved that it was near a cul-de-sac and also had a protected tree line. We knew we didn't want a large yard but needed enough for our dogs to run and play once we built a fence and lot 128 fit our needs nicely!

Once we picked out our lot, we scheduled a trip to the design center where we'd pick out the details of our home:

And after that, we did lots & lots of waiting until they were ready to begin. We spent lots of miles just driving past "our dirt" to remind ourselves of what we were working towards. It was tough being on a really tight budget for seven long months and not being able to always "see" what we were saving for. There were some really frustrating days when we wanted to go do things or buy certain things and the money was right there in our account but we couldn't touch it because of this seemingly mythical house we were "supposedly" going to be moving into "eventually."

I remember this day so clearly... we drove by the lot and we finally saw a little progress! They were getting ready to pour the foundation and we had been told that once the foundation was poured, it would go by really fast. 


After we saw that work was starting, we began driving by ALL the time. I really think this kept me sane... I loved watching our hard work come to life and we used it as motivation to keep saving & waiting patiently. Here you can see the foundation begin! 

A few days later, the sales rep for the development sent us this picture of the frame work going up and it went up fast.

By the time we got by to see it in person, it already looked like a house and the second floor was constructed!

This is an important picture that really brought me to tears when I saw it in person. Originally, to save money, I compromised and didn't get a fireplace so we could get the upstairs balcony that Scott really loved. We looked at re-sale value and the cost of gas and agreed that the fireplace was going to be more costly in the long run and that (to my surprise) most people opt out of a fireplace now when they build, so it wouldn't be a big deal when we decided to sell down the road. After a few restless nights and Scott knowing it was on my mind, well, you already know the rest of the story (see above):

The roof was finished & siding started to go up:

It looked so good once it was all on!

I have tons  of pictures of inside framework & drywall that I won't bore you with, but here are a few that will serve as good "before" pictures of the inside: 

Then our stone was completed and our driveway was poured. We were incredibly happy that the driveway was poured because that meant we didn't have to walk across dirt and mud every time we wanted to go inside:

From here, it was lots of detail-oriented work and sometimes when we'd visit it didn't look like a lot had happened day-to-day, but we were excited for cabinets, stair rails, and the mantel. It started to look like a real home, not just a house:

Paint really made it come together in our minds even though there was a lot left to be done:


Flooring was next, even though they keep the wood covered to protect it. Tile was laid in our bathrooms & carpet on the steps & upstairs:


Y'all don't even know how exciting sod is until you build a house: 

Or how exciting appliances & countertops can be: 

And finally, the most recent shot of the outside with our columns painted!

We cannot wait until we close on the 22nd! We do our final walk-through on Tuesday and then, once we sign on the dotted line (for what seems like the zillionth time), we can start moving in. At first we planned to move in slowly through mid-february when our lease is up in our apartment, but we're just too dang excited now, so expect lots of pictures & home decor updates between now and then!

Would anyone be interested in youtube videos of our house projects & progress? Scott & I have been tossing the idea around and it sounds kind of fun. Let me know!

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