A Love Letter

In our marriage counseling our pastor had asked us to write down the things we like about one another. He said we could do that in any way we wanted. To me, that was an open invitation to write Tim a longggg letter. Our pastor kind of made fun of this during our wedding ceremony because it is often that the guy sums up a list of things, while the woman pours out her heart on many pages, and we were no different.

On our anniversary Tim and I watched our wedding video for the very fist time. Our dear friend Dave has put many hours into getting us our memories on video and it was the most perfect gift for our one year anniversary. Hearing our pastor speak about my letter and sharing it with our family and friends during the ceremony made me want to share my longggg love letter here. As I was hearing it back, I was stunned at how right on I was with my words about Tim. Everything I said about Tim is actually very true today. Of course I have gotten to know Tim better over this past year, but the guy I got to know 21 months ago is a reality!

To my dearest Tim,
I am very honest and I don’t take these words lightly when I tell you that I have never met a man as Good as you. And I know having a dad like I had can make that not a big deal.  But besides my dad there were men in my life like neighbors, teachers, friends and pastors and no one was merely as good as you.  And I am honest when I say again that packing up my life in Holland to come here, to come to you, was very easy.  That is a compliment to you.  I know I have God to praise for this, and I have God to praise for you. He has designed for you to be a Good man and you could have chosen to walk a different path many times.  Your childhood in boarding school could have changed you, going through a divorce could have changed you.  But no such thing happened, you choose Good.  
When we met in church and had that first date way into the night, that is not when I got to know your character all that much.  It’s through our skype conversations that your character shone through strongly. It’s something stable and something I trust. I love your character, and I admire that you are a Good man.
I love that you are honest.
I love that you are such a happy person.
I love that you are humble.
I love that you will sit down with God on a daily basis.
I love that you are always willing to look at yourself first.
I love you are able to say you are sorry.
I love that you always see things from the bright side of life.
I love that you believe the best in a person.
I love that you are a giver and are always willing to help out.
I love that you are open to being confronted.
I love that you ask for help.
I love that you treat people with respect.
I love that you take your roll as son, brother, friend, neighbor, church go-er, my fiancé very seriously and you are a good son, good brother, good friend, good neighbor, good church go-er and an excellent fiancé.
Babe, you are really an excellent person. You are righteous.  You are remarkable.
All this really shows you are an amazing man, a Good man with a capital G because you really do reflect Jesus in your life.
There is much I love about you but for sure your character is your strongest asset. But how can I deny mentioning your hotness? Your appearance is stunning, your eyes are amazing, your facial features are so handsome.  I love your length, I love your muscles and let me mention I love your facial hair, I love your hair in general for that matter, ooooh that chest hair is sexy.
And than you have your ways that I love.  I often just sit there and look at you and take you in because when I am with you there is so much about you I just want to take in.  There are little ways, little things to you that are big to me like making sure you walk on the outer side of the road when we go out for a walk.  We have learned we are not to do that when we bike together because only then is my life not secure 😉   I love that you can get so cheery just because I am around you, and I love even more you let me know that fact.  I love the way you laugh.  I love your enthusiasm in life, over sports for instance, man do you get loud!  I love that you will ALWAYS grab my hand when we walk next to each other, whether that is from the car to the supermarket or during a long anticipated walk.
There are loves:
Can I mention here that you are an awesome athlete.
And I love your low singing voice.
I love you are strong.
I love your hugs and the way you kiss me.
I love how you make new people feel comfortable.
I love that the Gabonese are so important to you.
I love that you desire love over things.
I love you long to excel at work, to not just do your job but be good at it.
I love that you consider me in your decisions.
And than I get into some thank you’s:
Thank you for playing my childish games with me, even though they were weird at first maybe, but you still haven’t stopped racing me when we get out of the car and I yell: “Who gets there first?”  Thank you for partnering with me in those things that make me ME.  
Thank you that you ask me about my heart on a regular basis, what an honor it is to have you ask “How is your heart today honey?” in such a beautiful and compassionate way.
Thank you for trying to understand my ways of feeling loved.  I acknowledge that you go out of your set and comfortable ways to love me.
Thank you for your willingness to stand up as a man and leader, even if it means going against me. You are a tremendous leader.
Thank you for getting things done for me because you know they are important to me.  I acknowledge your wonderful and faithful efforts like with getting a home on time, getting a few pieces of furniture and getting me internet.
Thank you for taking me in account like when you made sure I had a phone while in the States the first time so I could be in touch not only with you, but also with my friends. Not to forget mentioning signing me up for the gym.  That really blessed my heart.  
Thank you for risking to fail (in your opinion) at loving me in practical ways like getting me Burlap and Bean coffee.
Thank you for keeping healthy by exercising on a daily basis.
Thank you for being my friend, I love hanging out with you whatever we do.
Thank you for laughing with me.
Thank you for laughing at me.
Thank you for reigning me in when I need to be reigned in.
Thank you for trying hard to love me well.
Babe, you deserve a Good woman.  You deserve to be acknowledged and honored.  It will be my important job in this world to be good to you, to honor you as a man and give you all the space you need to move, and to move well.  
You are easy to love.
I love you… tons!
Yours with lots of kisses, hugs and smooches,
MaddyChristine Hope

Besides celebration and change…

In my previous post I said that there are many updates to write, there is much to share and there are many stories to tell. When one is quiet for this long, it’s a little hard to know where to begin.

Let me start by saying that Tim and I are celebrating life. I can honestly say that life has gotten more beautiful with Tim in it.  When one marries at age 39, you can imagine the long wait there was to endure. But God saw it fit for me to wait this long. And now that ‘it’ is here… I continue to be grateful and celebrate the gift of marriage. Looking back I’d say it was worth the wait. Looking back I’d say that Tim was worth the wait. God knew what He was doing, His way was right! And for some reason… as soon as I met Tim, the long wait was forgotten. I was recently told by a friend how those words, spoken by me before, are still encouraging her in her wait.

As one can have gathered by now from reading this blog, my life was not on a bed of roses, neither was Tim’s.  And in no way did marriage take away my problems, or Tim’s. The difference is… we are together in all those ‘problems’ and that in and of itself is worth a celebration. How life has changed!

For me, getting married later in life took away that fairytale idea of marriage. And that is a good thing. Tim and I entered it pretty realistically. We didn’t get married thinking or hoping we’d be fixed by getting married, that problems would no longer be problems or that somehow marriage would make life grand and easy. I find it important to express that marriage didn’t do any of that. So, besides celebration and change, this year was full of growth and growing pains, learning and adapting.

I have come a long way in life and being married shows me I still have a long way to go. And Tim continues to remind me that we have a life time for that. He still reminds me to RELAX and have fun. Just this morning I thanked God for the perfect man He gave me. What a perfect match Tim is for me. After another restless night last night, I lay in bed awake this morning… restless.  I kept turning and sighing and groaning. Tim knows how to make a difference. He took me in his arms and said: “If you would only lie still for 5 minutes.” I attempted to lie still but kept talking, sighing and groaning. Tim continued: “I mean, lying still AND being quiet.” I decided to lean into him and his wisdom. It took everything I had in me to do just that but well and behold… I fell asleep for a little longer and in a peace I had not had all night. It’s the way Tim speaks, it’s the way he leads that blesses me tremendously. Another something that amazes me about being married is that Tim often knows how I am doing before I know it myself. He knows from a distance when I am having a rough day. How that works is a beautiful mystery to me.

Tim was worth the wait!
He knows me!
And my Heavenly Father knows me even better and loves me enough to work through my husband to make life better. 


Through her eyes…

There are many updates to write, there is much to share, many stories to tell… but for now I just want to re-live our Wedding Day, today a year ago!  

I thought to Celebrate our anniversary by sharing bridesmaid Melissa’s blog post on her blog about our Wedding Day. 
It it so fun to re-live our Wedding Day through her eyes!

Wedding of the Century

So many dreams came true on October 6, 2012.
So many details came together.
So many people were blessed.
And all because God is good. Even when life is bad.
He is in the business of restoring what is broken and making it beautiful.
And in this case, He didn’t just make all things beautiful in His perfect timing…
He made them RADIANT.
These two souls have been through more than most could ever imagine in their individual journeys. Pain, suffering, heartbreak, loss, longing. Beyond belief.
And yet rather than giving up hope, they chose to believe. To dig in. To forgive. To heal.
To allow God to re-create them from the inside out.
They chose hope.
They were willing to go through whatever it took to become whole.
And even when the dark clouds remained over their futures, they chose to trust. To wait. To be faithful.
And here they are. 
In all their glorious redemption…
(this side of Heaven)
The LOVE of God.
a wedding is the painting of a picture of Christ and His church;
you are truly looking, here, at the most beautiful image of His love.
I didn’t get too many pictures of the bride, due to the honor of actually being allowed to stand by her side all day. But what I did get was the eternally beautiful image of her face aglow as she worshipped her Healing, Loving Father, and vowed by His grace to bless this man-gift until her dying day.
I got the chills down my spine at the sight of her walking down the aisle with pure peace and grace all over her being.  And I got the greatest view of all during the whole ceremony. Their precious, emotion-filled faces, taking in every moment and soaking in the power of what was taking place.
What a true miracle to behold.
And the very BEST part?
 They are living 11 minutes away now– we get to be NEIGHBORS!!
God IS good!!!!
here are a few shots from the celebration:
Rehearsal time– cannot believe this is actually happening!
his first wedding– he was so excited!
i wish he was my date! sooo handsome!
lucky grams got to be his date instead!
my main squeeze bringing the videography skills
my cute parents, without whom we wouldn’t be here!
this girl was on FIRE!
the sweet send-off dance–
we all circled around them and danced them off into their new life together!
could she be more Radiant??
Could not be happier for this sweet couple.
Can’t wait to do life together–
to learn from them, laugh with them, and enjoy the goodness of our God together!
Such a blessing to us all!

Just have some fun

God really spoke to me in my fasting week. The words sound easy and yet, they are not.
God showed me that I work hard on our marriage, all the time!
My blog posts point it out also. I have shared in a previous post that I am a black or white person. I know no grey. I’d like to add to that that I am an all or nothing person. And that comes out in our marriage meaning I take marriage very seriously and I work hard on it, all the time. It’s a joy to do so, but I do get tired at times.
God confronted me on that and told me to ‘JUST HAVE FUN’. Tim’s been telling me for weeks to RELAX and I never understood really what he meant. Well, now I know. He and God were saying the same thing: I need to ‘just have fun’.
There is a problem with that though… I don’t know too well how to relax, how to ‘just have fun’. All my life I have worked so hard. My childhood was filled with abuse, pain and survival. In my twenties I worked hard on overcoming my past and healing. My thirties were focused on my career and company. And frankly, that brings me to here.
So my prayer to God has been: ” Father, I hear what you say. I don’t know how to just have fun. So please take me by the hand and show me how to ‘JUST HAVE FUN’.”
I am excited. Really excited. My Father tells me to have fun. What a great Father. He doesn’t want me working hard all the time. He wants me to trust Him that He is part of our marriage too, and He will help us stay on track. I don’t need to constantly pay attention to whether or not we are doing well. As I ponder on this I am seeing a father holding his girl’s hand, twirling her, directing her to the playground, making her smile and telling silly jokes. The girl has no care in the world.
I am ready to just have some fun !

High Standards – I don’t want the honeymoon phase to be over… ever

So I hear people say that all that I am feeling and doing is normal. Sometimes Tim and I differ in the area of ‘normal’. He realizes our love will be steady while we may not always feel close. I am still working on always feeling close. Tim explains to me that life will ‘get in the way’ and our focus will be outside of our home too. I still like to think my first and foremost responsibility lies at home.  Tim’s love is steady. In the midst of a not so nice moment he will say: “I love you” and: “We are okay.” There is truth in what he is saying but sometimes it is hard for me to say those words.

I want to continue to have high standards for our marriage and for who I am in this marriage and how I contribute. Okay, so my reactions you read about in that post may be normal… in the human sense. But I know God is calling me to a higher calling. He laid out what love is and what it looks like. That is not near what we humans make of it. Yes, we will fail, I will fail and I will need to extend grace to myself just like Tim is extending me grace. But I will not let go of the standard God gave me regarding the true meaning of love.
People talk about the honeymoon phase, the phase where everything not only seems easy, it is easy! It is easy to think about the other person. It is easy to sacrifice. It is easy to hug and hold hands. It is easy to spoil the other person with little gestures. Everything seems to go without effort. And ‘all of a sudden’ all those things that were simple to do and happened quite automatically, do not seem so automatic anymore. And we forget about the other person. We now think that what we want is what needs to happen, even if the significant other has other plans or ideas. Sacrificing moves to the background and we focus more and more on ourself. (I realize I am writing very black and white. For those of you who do not know me very well (yet), I am a black or white person. Often I do not know grey. Tim is trying to be my balance in that 😉  )
The honeymoon phase is dear to my heart. I like to believe that the honeymoon phase is not a phase, but maybe every newlywed feels that way. I am just not ready to accept that our honeymoon phase is over.  I am not ready for marriage to become more of a routine. I am not ready to let go of feeling close most of the time. I think Tim and I are a nice balance in that area. He brings in reality. I bring in ‘keeping it up’. The things that used to happen on it’s own… I don’t want to lose those things and I realize as time passes, they become work. In my opinion we need to remind ourselves of the honeymoon phase and work hard on keep doing what we were doing back in that season. I would like to work hard so that our marriage will not become a routine. I believe that now that Tim and I are without children… this IS the time for us to keep up the endearing things that put that smile on our face, that gave us that warm fuzzy feeling for one another. We still have a schedule that allows this, there are no distractions. If we are blessed with children at some point… I can imagine we get distracted by lots of things.
And what I wrote in this post was very real. I am surprised how we go from really good days to days where connecting is a bit of work. And I am not like Tim: I have a hard time saying ‘I love you’ when we are not that close and when I am not feeling great. Classic, right? Something that is very normal, married people tell me. And this brings me back to high standards. At no time is it okay for me not to say ‘I love you’ just because it is hard for me. Love stays, love is my choice. And when Tim isn’t feeling great and it comes out in our relationship, it is not okay for me to be short with him just because he is. No matter how hard, I want to get good at this. I don’t want to withdraw when he is withdrawn. I don’t want to forget to extend grace when he most needs it.
And to get the worries out of the way: Tim and I are well. We just celebrated our 6 month anniversary this weekend!  We are in a good place. I am just writing all this to be real. Marriage is hard work. Marriage is good work. I love marriage. And Tim and I have a good balance. We have plenty of fun. We relax. We exercise together. We nap on a Sunday. We hang out with really cool friends. We love our family and spending time with them.
A favorite and weekly event… hanging out with the Kolmans
Dear friends, and always sure of good content with them

Never enough family time… (feeding them a Dutch meal)


I don’t like to miss Tim’s soccer games
Going out on walks in the neighborhood in our dorky protection overcoats
We drive out to NYC to meet my old colleagues

We see an opportunity to take a photo at odd times
Working in the home office, always a joy
Sunday morning… we’d like to see some Dutch soccer before heading out to church

We hang out with family at the doctor’s office
Lots of time is spend at the gym
Coffee shop visit… also a favorite
We love a family visit
Or a visit from overseas
Celebrating 6 months this past weekend!! It’s been a wonderful 6 months. I regret nothing and am VERY grateful for this amazing gift of joy and love in my life.

Love isn’t a feeling

Jesus gave us a great example of Love.
Why, then, is it so hard to be like Him?
Jesus’ love is:
Literally dying to self.
And I know I cannot be Jesus, I cannot be perfect. But He gave an example over and over again. Why is it hard to follow?
It was bound to happen right? Me learning to love Tim when he’s not so in tune with where I am at, or when he makes that odd remark or makes a joke at the wrong time. It is actually really hard. It is hard to be disciplined about loving him when I really feel like walking away because I feel hurt by him.
But what rights do I have?
What is Love?
What is my role?
Let me just say… I am learning a lot… again… still…
Tim’s change of work and ministry has brought him into a rough season; a season where he is not always his happy, cheery self. This is why I need to step up to the plate and perhaps give more, and certainly love when he is falling short. Tim’s been short with me a few times, and I certainly get it… he deserves grace in this season that came rather abruptly. And yet… I lack. I fail.
I hoped I would never be like this. I am embarrassed to admit, but I want to walk away when I get hurt. I want to move to the other side of the couch (and I have) when I hurt. I have a desperate need to protect myself from pain.
I have never had a man devoted to me. I have never been married, and so now I may put way too much responsibility on Tim. It’s so wonderful to have someone who loves me, physically around. But with that comes that I depend too much on Tim to love me and make me feel good. So when he made a bad call a few times in a row, I turned around and separated myself from him. Not good! I even felt God guide me back in toward Tim, but I couldn’t. I wasn’t disciplined. I wasn’t the graceful wife. I wasn’t the loving wife. All I wanted was to be alone and deal with it alone.
I am realizing I always need God first, before I need Tim. Tim cannot and will not ever satisfy me. He is also not responsible for me. In a way, sure he is, but at the root he really isn’t. So while I enjoy human love for the first time, I kind of fall into the trap of thinking this makes Tim responsible for my well being and me feeling love. It wasn’t without reason that I put in my vows that “I realize that love isn’t a feeling. It will be my choice.”
So God is kindly pointing out His truth and His good ways. They are better than my thoughts, truths and ways.
Tim and I went to this marriage conference a few weeks back. It was our first 😉 and what struck me most is when Paul Tripp said: “Women, you love your husband because God loved you first.” And: “So you don’t love your husband when he is good to you. No! You especially love him when he fails, because God loved you first. You possess everything you need to love your husband.” It struck me! It pointed me to my need for Jesus. Yes, it may be hard to choose love when I am not feeling it, but when I choose and am disciplined to call out to Jesus, He will be faithful and make it possible, right there in that moment. I posses everything I need to love my husband and love him well.
Jesus’ love was sacrificial. Maybe true love is love that hurts a little. For Jesus it meant given everything. It hurt. It wasn’t easy. He even asked His Father if there wasn’t a different way (Matthew 26:39). It meant sacrificing His life so we can have ours, and we didn’t deserve it. Paul Trip mentioned that love isn’t really love until it is sacrificing for the good on another, especially when the other doesn’t deserve it. So I truly love Tim when it costs me something.
I need to treasure God’s love over my husband’s love. I need to go after God’s love before going after my husband’s love. Love isn’t about me getting from my husband, it is about me loving Him well. And in turn it means loving Tim when he ‘deserves’ it least. I know Tim does the same for me and THAT makes a good marriage.
I love because God loved me first.
I possess everything I need to love my husband well.
Love is still not a feeling. It will be my choice.
I need to treasure God’s love over my husband’s love.
True love costs a little. True love is sacrificial.