Monday, February 18, 2008

Keith and I traveled this weekend to Knoxville, Tennessee with the GFBC youth choir. This was our first youth trip as a married couple. For those of you who do not know, my wonderful husband is an associate youth minister at our church. Keith felt the calling into full time ministry when he was 17 years old, and he has been pouring his heart into kids ever since. This weekend was one of many trips that we have taken with the youth...this being one of the smaller trips. We headed out on Friday afternoon with about 55 youth ranging from 6th grade to 12th. My specialty would be the 6th grade girls...they still think I am pretty cool. We spent this weekend working at a ministry called Water Angels. Our kids and about 20 leaders spent Saturday painting, cleaning, organizing clothes, and prayer walking around the city of Knoxville. We were blessed to hear the stories of men and women who, with the love of Jesus Christ, are recovering from drug and alcohol addictions. It was so great to hear how they found Jesus in the deepest of valleys, and how He has rescued them from despair, addiction, hunger, and poverty. Our kids and even the adults saw a whole new side of life. The GFBC youth ministry is incredibly blessed. Most of the kids and adults have very nice houses to come home to and they can afford to put food on the table and buy new clothes, but these individuals do not. They walk around the streets of Knoxville with everything that they own in a suitcase, but still find the Love of Christ in everyday life. Most humans are incredibly shallow. If we found ourselves in a valley like theirs, most of us would turn away from God and blame him for the trials we are facing, but these individuals found God in their despair and His strength and grace have rescued them from a dark life. Their faith and strength is inspiring.

I do have to take a moment and brag on the youth. Keith and I love these kids. They worked so hard this past weekend, and I do not believe I ever heard a single complaint. They painted the exterior of a house, the inside of a church, organized bags and bags of donated clothing, and cleaned the house of a mother in the community. They worked so hard on Saturday, and then the choir spent Sunday leading worship at two different churches. We visited the Greater Warner church in Knoxville for their Sunday morning worship service, and I was so blessed. The preacher is definently a man of God, and his words were a blessing to my heart. The choir did amazing at both churches, and their voices and love for God blessed many hearts...including mine! Keith and I headed back to Alabama yesterday around 4:00. The youth had planned to go to the Dixie Stampede last night, but Keith and I had to get back to the real world. The youth and the leaders will be traveling home today, so please keep them in your prayers as they make their journey home. I pray that you all have a wonderful week. May we all realize the blessings that God has given us, and the grace He so freely gives.

Valentine's Day

Well...our first Valentine's Day as a married couple was not as romantic as I had hoped. Keith and I have spent many Valentine's Days together and this possibly was our worst. Instead of a nice dinner at a new resteraunt or some other exciting night, I spent the evening on the couch running a fever. Keith came home to find his new wife knocked out...Theraflu is good stuff! Although we did not get to spend a romantic evening out on the town, we did get to exchange some gifts. Keith gave me a beautiful bouquet of flowers, chocolate, and some of the most comfortable socks in the world. Keith's gifts consisted of a few things to preserve his inner child. He got a new Wii game (Madden football), the first season of The Office (we hear it's a really good show...we'll see), and two more Wii remotes, so all his friends can come over and play. Needless to say... it was a wonderful day.

No Worries

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

I posted about the wedding, but now I have to write about the HONEYMOON. It was absolutely wonderful. We spent the first night at the Tutwiler, which I highly recommend. The next day we caught a 6:00 flight (we were exhausted) and headed to Jamaica. I know that Alabama is not the coldest state in America, but I am extremely cold natured and the heat in Jamaica was a nice change. We arrived in Jamaica around 3:00 that day. We were hearded onto a bus where we spent the next hour and 45 minutes traveling to our resort. As Americans I believe that we definently take our lives and freedoms for granted. Here Keith and I were traveling to a lavish resort, while we passed shacks made out of sheet metal and children walking barefoot down the street. Keith and I have a heart for missions, and we felt incredibly guilty about enjoying all the good food, warm weather, and comfortable shelter, while these individuals struggled to make a dollar. Jamaica's economy relies on tourism, and I am passing on the word to travel there and feed their economy. These individuals were so kind and so eager to help us. They were all so relaxed and laid back and never complained about the job they were doing or their lifestyle. Many of them were very eager to discuss their life and the hardships they face, but not a single person said that they would flee to a better place if they had the chance. Many say that they have had family members travel to America to earn money, but they always come home to Jamaica. Keith and I left Jamaica feeling very blessed about the life that God has given us. We have so much more than we deserve.

The week in its self was wonderful. We spent the majority of the days relaxing on the beach and trying not to get burned. We spent one day at a world famous attraction called Dunn's River Falls. This was a 1,000 foot waterfall that we climbed hand in hand. The water was freezing but the environment was beautiful. Keith and I purchased a special pair of water shoes for this occasion...they were hideous. Needless to say, they did not make it back to America. Part of our relaxing week involved a massage on the beach. It was a little nerve racking having a thin sheet placed over you while the rest of the resort was free to watch, but it was amazing. After a long week of wedding planning and final touches, we both needed the massage. The resort did not have very much of a night life, unless you enjoyed drinking...ALOT! Keith and I spent a lot of time at the ping pong tables, which I am proud to announce I won a whopping total of 4 games out of about 16. Keith is definently not a believer of letting the girl win, but I love him. About Wednesday we both decided that Jamaica was nice, but we were both ready to get settled back in Gardendale. It was great to get away from the "world" for a little while, but there is no place like home.

Beautiful Chaos

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

We have made it back to Alabama, and I finally have time to post about our wedding. It could not have been more perfect. I had heard time and again that no wedding went without at least a minor disaster, but I must say that our wedding went very smooth. If there was a disaster it was definently hidden from me. The festivities began the night before. Keith's mother put together a wonderful rehearsal dinner with chili, taco soup, and grilled cheese sandwiches. I know it's not your typical dinner, but it was so wonderful. The food was amazing and the company could not have been better. That evening the guys took off to see the new Rambo movie. I heard reports that it was incredibly bloody. The girls on the other hand headed to the Varden's house for one last "girly" spend the night party. We spent the evening laughing, "duck taping", and trying to relax. Of course I did not sleep...I might have gotten in one hour. We woke up that morning, and I don't believe I have ever been that calm. My friends will tell you that calmness is definently not a quality that I possess. All the bridesmaids and myself spent the morning getting our makeup done and fixing hair. We all met at the church to finish getting dress...and then started, possibly, the most emotional day of my life!

Keith and I chose to see each other before the ceremony...I know it's not very traditional, but we are not traditional people. This may sound incredibly sappy, but the moment that the doors were opened and he turned around all was forgotten. The stress, tears, and nerves vanished as I walked down the aisle to meet him. He hugged me and held me while I cried...Keith never cries!! After I quit crying we began to laugh because I realized that I had forgotten to put on deoderant on the most important day of my life. We spent the rest of the afternoon laughing and taking pictures...which I will post when I figure out how! The ceremony began at 2:00 and felt like it was over by 2:05. The pastor who married us is the man who introduced to each other...thanks Andy! The ceremony was beautiful and very emotional...I cried but Keith held strong. The moment that he introduced us as man and wife was beautiful. Our ceremony was meant to bring glory to God and He was definently in that place.

The wedding was followed by a black and white reception. The guys changed from their tuxes to t-shirts and the mingling began. Everyone told me that I would not get to eat at the reception, and they were definently right. I had a bite of cake (for the picture), a bottle of Sprite, and one Sweet tart sucker. The party was wonderful. There were so many people there, and we felt so blessed to have them all witness our special day. The whole day went by so fast and before we knew it we were driving off in the 50's Buick limo looking back at our guests and our family as they waved goodbye. It was beautiful. I could not have asked for anything else. I married my soul mate in front of all the people that we love. Keith and I have one desire and that is to serve our Lord and Savior. We have begun a new journey and we cannot wait to see where God takes us. Please keep us in your prayers.

The Vardens