The Day I Took a Walk – Part Three

New to this week’s anniversary series? Read Part One and Part Two

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The morning of our anniversary dawned as beautifully as our wedding day did ten years ago, but this time, of course, there were children in my bed.

Funny how that works.

Having already delivered all of the necessary supplies to my parent’s house two nights before, the girls and I were free to wake up leisurely and get our day started before being picked up by my mama for our fun bridal-esque day on the town.

Mom and I giggled a bit to recall our identical drive a decade past, leaving my capable sister-in-law, Amy, in charge of all of the wedding chaos back at the house while we enjoyed our last day together sharing the same home and last name. (Thanks again, Amy – you were awesome! I will owe you FOREVER!)

As my mama’s baby and only girl following three sons, the two of us had really savored every possible second of the entire bridal experience, and while I would maybe do a few things differently in retrospect (i.e. save my parents some money by toning things down a notch), we were feeling absolutely on top of the world that day.

And so it was fun to see a similar glee on my daughter’s faces as we loaded up into my mom’s SUV. I’m sure you know this already, but one of the crowning joys of life is having girls in your life to do girly stuff with.

And can I just say that I was so proud of Betsie for being brave enough to wear her sponge rollers all over Tulsa, although I am sure she soon realized that it was a wise choice, as every woman we passed stopped in her tracks to fawn over the cuteness and nostalgia that her ‘do evoked.

Maybe I’ll try to wear sponge rollers to Tulsa someday. Do you think people will think I’m cute?

Yeah, okay, maybe I won’t.

So our first stop was to the donut shop to get donut holes because donuts are important, whether it is your anniversary or not.

Next, we drove to the flower shop to pick out our flowers. We didn’t actually get our wedding flowers from Stem’s in 2005, but we did have roses at our wedding and Stem’s has roses, so there you go. Plus it was in the same shopping center we would be in all day.

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Did you know that The Pioneer Woman has shopped here before? I could feel her lingering presence. That’s why I’m really smiling in this picture, not because it is my anniversary and I’m about to get my hair did.

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Stem’s always has a gorgeous selection of flowers. It was hard to leave without buying the whole room!

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Next, because we were a little bit early for my first appointment, we stopped in at Pottery Barn Kids to waste some money…er, time.

I wonder, sometimes, if Pottery Barn Kids recognizes our family as the people who come and play with toys but never buy anything?

I hope not.

We make up for it at Christmastime.

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And then it was time for my hair appointment at Ihloff Salon and Day Spa, the magical place where I spent many hours in the months leading up to my wedding getting groomed and scrubbed and polished, and where I had my hair done for bridal portraits and our wedding.

I touched on this already in Part Two of this series, but it felt so strange to be having an updo as an old washed-up woman in her thirties.

At least, that’s how we allow ourselves to think sometimes, isn’t it?

Which leads me to the second part of the lesson I told you about yesterday.

If I’m being quite transparent, and I thank you for allowing me to do so, I would have to confess that this was not an ideal time in my mind to be focusing an entire day and photo shoot around myself.

Shepherd’s pregnancy – and my ruthless craving for hamburgers that accompanied that pregnancy, I am sure – was hard on my body, and almost two years later, I have yet to return to my favorite weight range and the size of clothing that I feel most comfortable with.

It doesn’t help much, of course, that Sheppy is a devoted cuddlebug who hypnotizes me with his preciousness at least five times a day. While Betsie had me on my feet every second of her awake-time trying to keep her alive, therefore causing the pounds to just fall off of me, Sheppy is more like, “Hey, Mom, you want to sit here on the couch with me and let everything that we just ate turn into fat?”

It’s cute.

And I always say “Why, yes, Sheppy, I DO.”

And I say all that not to fish for compliments and not to give the impression that I am unhappy with the way I look – on most days, I feel perfectly fine and passably attractive for a mom of four kids in her early thirties.

But a photo shoot?! Where I’m the star? And where there isn’t a baby on my hip, camouflaging my midsection, at all times?

Awkward.

Therefore, this surprisingly painful practice of forging ahead and being the “woman of the hour” was good for me, not only to battle the self-consciousness that can so easily hold dominion over a woman’s spirit – even a woman who holds to all the right theologies! – but to display to my daughters that this earthly shell of mine isn’t something that I will shrink under.

We have bigger fish to fry, do we not?

And do you know what?

I totally went for it. And, please, feel free to go ahead and applaud for me because I didn’t even wear a SHAWL. Sleeveless, baby, for maybe the first time in public in I don’t even KNOW when.

Okay, it was a cap sleeve, but now you’re just being picky.

And the moral of this section of my anniversary series is as follows…

most husbands don’t want perfect-looking wives, they just want confident wives who aren’t so obsessed with their bodies that they keep them under lock and key both in and out of the bedroom.

On this day and on this anniversary weekend, I chose to be confident for my man, and believe you me, he was a fan. 😉 😉 😉

Moving on, before we get to the fun of our outing, there is one last secret that I’d like to pass along, a secret that applies to all family gatherings, especially when children are involved, and it this: though beautiful and touching in theory, this momentous day of ours was no more perfect than any other day outside of the gates of Eden.

Let me explain.

I was telling my friend, Kodi, that I am the queen of dreaming up these idyllic scenarios about the special moments I will share with my family.

In my imagination, there is always laughter and frolicking and I’m never sweating or feeling like I could wring someone’s neck.

And, in my projections for this day, in particular, my impressionable daughters would most assuredly be sitting on the edge of their seats, watching their beloved mother being transformed into a vision of timeless beauty. Their eyes would sparkle as they would watch my hair being pinned up, and they would meditate on how happy they are to have landed in my nest.

HA.

Fake, boooooooored smiles.

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Five minutes into my updo, Rebekah chirped, “How long do we have to be here? Can we go back to Pottery Barn Kids?”

Betsie, who was hanging like a monkey from the neighboring stylist’s chair, dropped to the floor and nodded her head in agreement.

And I realized again, in that moment, that my children are humans – especially on holidays! – and that I should just sit back and enjoy my day in a realistic manner. No pressure on anyone, just love and humor, and this attitude would most certainly serve me well the entire day, and really, my entire life.

I hope you’ll remember this at your next Easter Egg hunt when everyone is crying, your kids have changed into sweatpants without your permission, your hair is wind-blown and stuck to your lipgloss and your underarms have leaked sweat onto your blouse for all the world to see.

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My mom, ever the astute helper, soon whisked the girls off for about an hour, leaving me and my stylist, Whitney, to chat and relax…

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and they returned just in time to see the last pin being slipped into my fifty pounds of hair. (I sincerely felt sorry for this sweet lady who had to figure out how to arrange that mess!)

Before leaving, she put on the finishing touch, the crystal brooch that was pinned in my hair ten years earlier, and then we moved down the street to my make-up session at Saks Fifth Avenue, which was, you guessed it, exactly where I went on my wedding day.

The girls felt a little perkier about this portion of our day – they love make-up! – and Debra at the Trish McEvoy counter was so accommodating to our little party.

How nice it felt to sit at my leisure and have a professional gussy me up. The only problem was, this make-up application felt SO good and relaxing, I just wanted to go night-night when it was all over.

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And now I’d like to display to you for just a second what it is like to sit with Betsie during church…

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Oh! And have I mentioned yet that girls are fun?!

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Before we left for the day, Rebekah and Betsie got to join in the pampering, and they were giddy with excitement.

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I share my lipgloss with them faithfully, but this was another level, entirely.

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On our way out of Utica Square, we picked up the cake at Queenie’s Cafe — the same strawberry cake that was featured on the dessert table at our wedding — the flowers that had been put back for us at Stem’s, and supper for all of us to eat after the celebration.

And then?

We were off!

While the drive to Tulsa had been almost identical to the one I took on my wedding day – heart full of excitement to luxuriate in a bridal transformation – the drive home was much different.

There were no nerves this time.

No fears or doubts.

No somberness about the life I was leaving behind.

Only praise and gratitude from mulling over how good God has been, pure excitement about spending the evening with my favorite people, and, honestly, relief that this entire shenanigan was almost successfully concluded!

Turning onto my parent’s country road from the highway, we stopped and pointed out to the girls where, ten years earlier, their Papa had been standing in the bar-ditch with my brother, Pete, propping up an antique door that told wedding guests where to turn.

As mom and I had slowed down to greet them that late afternoon, Mr. Gore had turned his back to me so he wouldn’t see me before the wedding, and I felt like I was going to burst. I’d had butterflies galore in that moment, and I had them again, just thinking about my bridegroom who has stood by my side for a beautiful decade.

When we finally pulled up into the driveway, Rebekah, Betise and I scurried to my mom and dad’s room through the back door while Mama went through the front door to deliver strict orders to the boys not to come back there.

It was a full-out GIRLS ONLY moment, and the next hour or so was spent thumbing through our wedding album, watching our wedding ceremony on DVD (Rebekah could not BELIEVE how “adorable” her papa was!) and watching the collection of old movie clips that had played on a big projector screen at our wedding reception.

And then, just like on my wedding day, the evening swung into full gear, Becky arrived with all of her camera equipment, we began to get dressed in our fancy clothes, and then, well…

then we took a walk.

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I vow to you that you’ll see EVERY BIT of that walk, tomorrow!

The Day I Took a Walk – Part Two

Read Part One here

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As the day of our 10th anniversary drew closer, the details of the special celebration we’d decided upon began to take shape, bit by bit.

I bought a dress.

I gathered up some prospective outfits for the Mister and our four small children.

I made a couple of appointments.

And as everything fell slowly into place, I began to feel that this day that had been capturing my dreams really might have been Spirit-led. This plan was burning inside of me and the very thought of it frequently brought tears to my eyes.

However, there was still one major component lacking, and it was pretty imperative, as far as I was concerned. Forgive me, please, if I bumble in the paragraphs to come, for I’m afraid that I don’t even have the words for this part…

As you might remember, our default photographer of all special family occasions, Benjamin Grey Photography, moved to Kentucky last year.

I was devastated, not just to see two of my favorite people on the planet leave our hometown, but also to lose some of my most dependable and enthusiastic blog cohorts. Teamwork is an important factor in creative endeavors, and I had grown so accustomed to having someone just down the street who could help me get the pictures out of my head and into reality.

Thus, when it came to hiring someone to capture our special day for us, I didn’t even know where to start. My taste runs high but my budget runs short, and homemade granola, blog exposure and maybe a Benjamin Franklin or less had always been enough to satisfy our very talented photography buddies.

Pardon me, but how was I even supposed to approach someone new with those terms about joining the Mrs. Gore’s Diary team without sounding like a beggar or a lunatic?

Especially because the “Mrs. Gore’s Diary team” isn’t even a real thing, unless, of course, you travel through the delusional and/or egotistical regions of my own brain.

To say I was stumped was an understatement.

Finally, just grasping for straws one day, I contacted a young woman on Facebook who grew up in my church.

She lives quite far from us, but she is a beyond talented wedding photographer who seemed to be in a creative network, of sorts, and I thought she might have some connections in the Tulsa area and could at least make a recommendation for us to begin a conversation with someone…anyone! I was growing less picky by the minute!

Thus – and I’m getting to the good part, I promise – you can only imagine my delight and shock when she, right off the bat, volunteered for the job.

?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

I couldn’t believe it, and I still can’t, really.

Praise the Lord for his sovereignty and kindness, she would actually be in a neighboring town on THE night of our anniversary, and the two of us proceeded with excited and giggly plans from there.

Now, I could try most vehemently not to gush about this girl’s talent and generosity, but it would be of no use.

Becky, of Champagne and Blush Photography, was on board from the very beginning of our correspondence, she caught the exhaustive vision of what I wanted this day to be, and she completely captured every single thing on camera (which I’ll be sharing with you so soon!) that I could possibly have dreamed of: the history of our wedding day ten years ago, my parent’s homeplace where I grew up and got married, our crazy-but-beautiful life with four children, and, basically, every single detail that would deeply minister to my heart as I looked back on this tangible portrait of what God has wrought in the life of a woman who, a decade ago, had no inkling of what lay ahead for her.

In other words, Becky captured the “then” of our life together and she captured the “now”, and that’s exactly what I was hoping for on the evening of our 10th anniversary, a “marrying”, if you will, of our wedding day to our present life as mother and father.

Obviously, there had been no Gideon in 2005. No Rebekah. No Betsie. No Shepherd.

The people who, for the most part, completely make up our world today were years from even being formed! It might have just been the two of us a decade ago, but today we are six, and since they are basically our best friends and constant companions, neither Mr. Gore nor myself could even begin to think of commemorating this day without our children. We are a family, and if one of us celebrates, by golly, we ALL celebrate.

And so here, finally, is the outline of our grand plan.

On the morning of our anniversary, Mr. Gore would take the boys for the day, and the girls and I would go with my mom through a full repeat of all the things that I did on my wedding day.

I and the girls would not lay eyes on the boys all day long.

I would get my hair swept up into something fancy at a salon.

I would get my make-up professionally applied.

We would drive home from Tulsa and hide in my parent’s bedroom where I hid on the day of my wedding.

And then, as afternoon turned to evening, we would exit the french doors that my daddy and I stepped through on June 11, 2005, to begin that momentous walk that changed my life in ways I never saw coming.

With my little girls beside me, I would revisit that exact path — out the little gate to the pasture, down the fenceline, through the big gate that enters the yard, and down the grass-covered aisle that was flanked by white folding chairs — but this time, rather than being met by a waiting crowd of guests, a choir, a minister, and most importantly, my fiance, it would simply be our boys, my husband and my sons, standing on the exact spot on the porch where I said “I do” to Mr. Gore and became his wife.

This was not a vow renewal, really.

It was a meditation of vows already made, a proclamation to our little family that Papa and Mama spoke sacred words of promise to each other ten years ago, words of promise that God designed for men and women to flesh out, words of promise that God alone has helped us to keep, and words of promise that we intend to fulfill, by the grace of God, till death do us part.

And, oh my goodness, what a surreal experience this turned out to be, from start to finish, and I do believe I could write up an essay comparing the mentality of brides versus that of wives and mothers.

It’s funny, the crystal earrings I had worn on my wedding day and pulled out of hiding had not changed a bit.

The yard had not changed, except, of course, for the playset my parents set up for the grandkids.

The music we played on our ipod was identical, note for note, to the music we enjoyed during our ceremony and reception.

But I, the blushing bride of yesteryear, have CHANGED, and I’m not just talking physically!

For starters, I was so very tired by the time this event arrived.

Granted, there had been a pretty important Cinderella birthday party for our daughters only six days before this anniversary celebration, but still. Where did all of that energy come from when I was a soon-to-be newlywed?! How was I able to plan an event – that included a full supper, mind you! – for 400 guests in the middle of nowhere at the age of 23, yet barely manage to pull off a simple dessert party for our six family members in that same location a mere ten years later?

There had, indeed, been a lot of shopping to do, including my dress. There were clothes to gather up and iron for all four kids and my husband. There was wedding day memorabilia to dig out of storage and transport to my mom and dad’s house. There were hair and make-up appointments to schedule, after extensive research with all of my peeps on the Mrs. Gore’s Diary team. There were photography details to discuss with Becky. There was music to purchase and download. There was a cake to order and pick up. There was an outdoor pavilion to clean and decorate.

Not to mention, of course, a thorough scrubbing of my own house, where my husband and I would stay, alone, for two nights after leaving the kids with my parents.

I kid you not, by the time our anniversary finally arrived, I was almost too pooped to party!

But, even more noticeable than the exhaustion I was feeling in my body were the surprising changes that have occurred in my attitude after ten years of being a wife and eight years of being a mother.

When I was a bride, I felt pretty much entitled to all that was being done for me. This was my wedding, after all, and while I was no bridezilla, I didn’t shrink from a sliver of the attention or the pampering that was consistently coming my way throughout my entire season of betrothal.

Therefore, it truly took me off guard, about halfway through the planning stage for this anniversary celebration, to find that I am just no longer fully comfortable with splurging on myself, an art that I formerly excelled in!

The expense of this simple celebration made me positively squirm, I tell you, especially when it came to my own dress and appointments.

“This is such a waste of money…” I thought to myself as I made the call to schedule my updo. “And for what? To only be seen by a handful of people, most of whom are under the age of 9? To just go home after we eat cake and call it a night? WHY did I decide to do this??

Frankly, I was embarrassed. I had made all of these appointments and I had spent all this money and I had done all this work and I had hired a photographer, and it just all seemed so goofy and indulgent and unnecessary for a minute.

But then do you know what I did, and I sometimes wonder if this, too, was inspired by the Spirit?

I considered my prom nights as a junior and senior in high school, and therein found a new and confident resolve: if a girl can spend hundreds of dollars and take all sorts of pains to look amazing and special for a guy or a group of friends that she, for the most part, will only see on Facebook in the years to come, why on earth should she not do the same for her beloved and faithful husband, the person with whom she intends to spend a lifetime?

She should, by jing!

And she should do so with giddiness and gladness.

Which leads me to the biggest lesson I learned through this entire anniversary experience, a lesson I knew before, but whose resolve has been more deeply etched onto my heart than EVER before…

Marriage is worth fighting for.

It is worth our time.

It is worth our exhaustion.

It is worth our discomfort.

It is worth our money.

It is worth pampering and spoiling and getting fixed up for.

It is worth everything we can give it.

And this night of celebrating and luxuriating, though definitely out of the ordinary for Mr. and Mrs. Gore, was a cradling of our vows that I will never, ever forget…

and never, no, NEVER regret.

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Thank you for joining us for this anniversary series! Stay tuned for more, tomorrow!