Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Boys

All of my boys are so different.  So it's really fun to think about what this next boy will be like.  How different can he be from the other three?  One of the joys of watching them grow is seeing what they're interested in.  My oldest child is so into baseball right now, especially the Giants, that we literally have to keep his fetish in check.  We let him watch the highlights of the game on the computer and every night that there's a game, he gets to fall asleep listening to it on the radio.  But he knows every player, their stats, all the rules of the game, and we'll often hear him cheering/clapping when a good play is made once he's in bed.  He has fallen hard for America's favorite pastime.

Little Joshua is very into working outside.  He loves dirt, he loves trucks, he loves messy things and he loves hard work.  Often he will outwork his older brothers (with outside chores that is).  He's got some brawn to him and his favorite thing to do, besides stacking wood, is to work with his Daddy in the garden, filling his wagon with things to load up into the truck to be carted away on a trash run.
And Caleb, he's always been our builder.  Both older boys have their Dad's math mind (we don't particularly know about Joshua yet, nor does it matter much... he is who he is).  But Caleb, like I've mentioned before, is also very interested in Physics.  He wants to know why and how everything in the world works.  And when he builds something, there is always a rhyme or reason to how he makes it all work together.  Recently, he and I did some experimenting with levers and yesterday morning, he was delighted he was able to make his spoon balance on his oatmeal bowl by equally distributing its weight.  "This side is longer than that side Mom."  He said very matter-of-factly.  "But it works because this side has the spoon on it.  They weigh the same."  He literally wouldn't eat another bite of oatmeal until I took a picture of it (to show Dad later).  Cracking me up.   
Last night, he gave us another glimpse into his little mind, when he built his first "machine".

He called it his Printer.

Both Steve and I had no idea what he was doing as he gathered his materials.  It looked like a bunch of junk at first.  But then, it all started to come together, taking shape and after much sweat and determination on his part, he had built his first machine.  And the best part of it all, is that it worked.

Hope you all enjoy his little presentation. 

Monday, June 25, 2012

Birthday Girl, "Anniversary" and Part 7-The First Kiss

Today marks two special events in our family.  The first is that it's been 12 years since Steve and I have been together.  Yeah!  I think we'll celebrate by both crashing early.  Such is the life.  The second is that our fourth child and only daughter was born on this day two years ago.  What joy, tenderness, femininity and sweetness she's added to the "roughness" in our home.  Since she's most likely going to be the only girl, we treasure her presence immensely and are so glad she's ours.  Happy 2nd Birthday Elle!  We love you!

Part 7-First Kiss
Soon enough we were back in San Luis Obispo with Fall Quarter underway.  Many people in AGO were shocked to hear we were dating since most didn't have a clue that we liked each other at all before the summer.  Many assumed we had been a camp romance and so we had to set the record straight a bit, which was fine.  One of the biggest blessings for us was that we had so many older couples, who had dated or were dating while in AGO, who were either engaged or married, that served as amazing examples of godly relationships.  We also had many peers and close friends who had gotten together too so we had many people to emulate.  As we dove back into our regular way of life, we watched and learned.

Early on in October I suspected our first kiss might be coming and I was hoping it would be soon.  Steve had kissed my hand at the end of the summer and then one night, when he was helping me study for a math exam (and I was a bit frustrated with my studies), he sweetly kissed the top of my head.  I was guessing the cheek would be next but, I really wasn't sure.  All of my roommates had bets on the cheek.  I was hoping he'd skip the cheek altogether and go for the was getting harder for me to wait.  Whenever he held me close I had to use all my self-control to not steal a quick little peck but the fact that I was determined not to be the one that kissed him first, kept me in check!

It was a beautiful fall Saturday in October when Steve asked me to hang out for the afternoon.  I didn't think much of it at all.  When he showed up in his buddy Scott's car with a red rose in his hand I thought, "Oh how sweet!  He's learning!"  And that was pretty much it.  I wasn't sure where we were headed until we began driving away from San Luis Obispo and toward Montana de Oro, which is a beautiful, rugged beach lined with breathtaking cliffs.  Steve had packed us a lunch of sandwiches from Gus's and after hiking down to the water, we ate our lunch down on the beach.
Right after lunch I asked him if we could take a walk.  He said, "No," pretty quickly and firmly.  I thought that a bit strange so I tried again to get him to come and walk with me, but he wouldn't budge.  Little did I know he was mustering his courage.  I grabbed his hand trying to urge him down through the sand but instead he pulled me close.  I pulled away teasingly and told him that we should start walking.  And then he got serious.  I realized he wasn't in a joking mood so I stopped messing around and listened.
He pulled me close again.  I didn't think much of it since for four months I had been in his arms on numerous occasions and that was it.  And then he started talking.  "Nikki, I know you've waited a long time for me to give you flowers."  I nodded in agreement, halfway hoping inside that the flower-giving would start to pick up now that he realized how much I liked it.  "Well, I waited to give you flowers until the day I would kiss you for the first time because I wanted it to be special."  Then I knew.  But before I had any opportunity to be scared or shy or even totally excited out of my mind, he kissed me.

 It was the sweetest, most gentle kiss ever and before I knew it, it was over.  Way too fast in my opinion.  I had waited so long for that kiss.  So without even thinking and void of any decorum at all, as soon as he pulled away, I blurted out, "Kiss me again!"  He laughed, smiled and then reached for me to kiss me again.  That time I was ready.  The first time I wasn't expecting it so I didn't get to savor it.  But the second time I was able to take it all in, the sound of the lapping waves, the salty breeze, his hand on my face and his tender lips on mine.  And in doing so, I was able to capture that little snippet in time and etch it on my memory, so that I could store it up in my heart and remember the moment forever.     

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Part 6-The Perfect Summer

Life in the kitchen was pretty fun.  I definitely felt a bit disconnected to what was going on with camp as a whole since I was mostly worried about helping feed the masses but, I was getting to know my coworkers better and I really liked the work itself.  I also realized pretty quickly how gracious God had been to put me on the kitchen staff that summer rather than on the counseling staff because Program Staff and Counselors hardly had any off-time together.  My job in the kitchen didn't clash with Steve's nearly as much.  We were able to steal a few minutes here and there to talk and sometimes at night we could get a bit of time.

By some strange stroke of providence we just "happened" to get the same night off too.  One of the Program Staff, who did the schedule, knew we were dating and was really kind to do that for us.  The first Tuesday night that we were both off together, I didn't know quite what to do.  I really wanted to hang out with Steve but, I wasn't about to ask him to go out so, I just made my own plans to run errands in town.  


As I was walking to my car I saw Steve sprinting to the parking lot.  Breathless, but grinning he said, "Wait!  Do you, uh, want to hang out tonight?"  "Nice," I thought to myself.  "This guy is pretty awesome but, it definitely shows that he doesn't have that much experience with wooing girls."  I decided quickly to put all of that aside though.  He can learn.  What matters is who he is, not whether or not he's a smooth operator.  "Sure."  I agreed.  He climbed into the driver's seat and off we went.

When we pulled into Scotts Valley, his hometown, we ended up at the local Baskin Robbins.  After getting our ice cream, we made our way out to the tables outside in the warm summer night air.  And we started talking and didn't stop for hours.  The more we talked, the more the pressure started to fall of our shoulders.  We had already admitted our feelings.  We had finally defined what we were.  And now, we were just learning to enjoy each other's company in light of our new status, like we had before. It was the first night we started getting comfortable in our new skin.  We were figuring things out.  Things were starting to feel less "business" and more natural.  Not that it wasn't necessary to iron things out, but it was so nice to just soak each other up without a bunch of extra pressure.  We laughed and laughed and we shared deeper things.  When the Baskin Robbins staff started to pull the tables inside, we knew it was time to go, so we reluctantly went to my car to go back to camp. 


But it was clear.  Neither of us wanted the night to end at all.  And we had until midnight.  So right before we got back to camp we pulled off the road just a mile before the main entrance, opened up the moon roof and watched the stars to drink in every last second of that night.  Before I knew it, Steve had his arm around me and he was running his fingers ever so gently through my hair.  Not much was said.  Neither of us had much to say at all.  We were just being present trying to take it all in. 

Yet as we pondered the beauty of God's amazing creation, way up in those majestic mountains, we knew that God was doing something pretty amazing in our lives.  He had brought us together in such a thoughtful way and He alone was allowing us to take such pleasure in His plan.  And it was clear, we were both enjoying His gift to us more than we ever knew we could.  It had definitely been worth the wait.

*             *             *             *

The summer passed pretty quickly.  We spent many Tuesday nights going out in Santa Cruz and at times went north on Highway 1 to walk along the beautiful beaches that lined the rugged California coastline.  There was one beach in particular that we frequented often and after falling so in love with it, we termed it "our beach". Many times, in order to squeeze every last second out of those nights, we pulled off the road right before camp and watched the stars before driving into camp at the stroke of midnight.  It was during those times that we had some of our best talks about life, our faith and where we thought "we" were going.  In between date nights, we did our jobs, talked when we could and kept things quiet.  Slowly, over the summer, a few more people found out we were dating but at that point, camp was winding down and most people didn't give it much thought.  

Often on the weekends, we went and visited Steve's family since they lived so close.  Steve would sleep on the couch upstairs and I slept in the guestroom.  Then we all went to church and had lunch afterward.  It was a nice rhythm and I got to know his parents and siblings much more than I did before.  All in all, it had been a perfect summer. 

But August hit and it was finally at an end.  I was headed up to spend a few weeks with my parents before Cal Poly started in late September and Steve was staying in Santa Cruz until then as well.  We knew it might be some time before we saw each other again.  Seeing each other every day at camp had spoiled us!  The thought of being apart for a few weeks was definitely daunting.  But we knew, in the end, it was just a matter of time before we'd be in San Luis Obispo again.

As Steve walked me out to my car to say "good-bye", he knelt down, grabbed my hand and gave it a tender kiss.  He had never kissed me before.  We had only held hands and at times, he would hold me close but, there had not been any kissing and that had been on purpose.  In the beginning, he had told me it would be some time before he would kiss me and I had no idea when it would occur. 

When I drove away I kept replaying the whole scenario in my mind.  Had I imagined it or did he really kiss my hand?  Yes!  Yes, he did!  Because if he did, then that meant we were at least on some sort of track for a real kiss sometime soon.  The thought of that whole element of our relationship scared me to death but it also thrilled me to the core.  I had liked this guy for months now.  We had been dating for the whole summer and we both liked each other even more now than when we started.  So it seemed natural that would follow.  But I'd have to be patient.  This Steve Dauphin was very logical and methodical.  He'd kiss me when he was ready and when he thought we were ready for it.  I kept telling myself these truths over and over in my head.

Yet, in reality, after that kiss on the hand, I didn't know if I'd be able to hold out for much longer.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Part 5-The "DTR", Finally Official

I'd finally found the place.  It had definitely been an adventure getting there in my new car.  The Santa Cruz mountain roads were windy and very hilly (death to the novice stick shift driver) but, I made it in one piece.  As soon as I walked down the road, I saw all sorts of other staff members unloading their cars and moving stuff in.  I scanned the crowd looking for Steve but I didn't see him.  Yet as I walked up Hamburger Hill, unsuspectingly,  I ran smack dab into him.  I surprised him so much that he dropped the package he had been carrying, which was from his parents, spilling the contents.  Unfortunately for him, the much needed boxers and socks they sent him were littered all over the ground.  We both got quiet immediately at the sudden awkwardness and then he laughed, breaking the silence. "Don't look at those!"  he snarled playfully with a laugh while quickly picking them all up.  I was beet red of course, totally embarrassed by seeing him again for the first time and uneasy about the "personal" contents of his package. 

But I quickly forgot all about the package because in the next instant, before I even knew what was happening, he grabbed my hand and pulled me in close to him wrapping his strong arms around me.  Immediately, I got lost in his shoulders and his chin rested on my head.  "I'm glad to see you," he whispered softly as he grinned down at me.  The moment was brief but it was significant.  For except the recent driving lessons, when he occasionally had helped me to shift leaving my fingers tingling, it was the first time he'd ever really voluntarily touched me at all in the whole six months.  It was definitely the first hug he'd ever given me, that's for sure.  And as he held me close, for those few seconds, I felt like the luckiest girl in the whole world.
*             *             *             *
Camp Orientation was going really well.  The first night we were all woken up at 3 am and were forced to hike to the top of Pine Mountain (team building I guess).  It was a bit crazy but, a lot of fun.  After that we headed to the Central Valley to Space Camp where we did a lot of team building exercises, got to know one another a bit better and spent the warm nights just hanging out.  One of the nights we all were up late playing basketball.  One by one people started heading off to bed until there were just a handful of us left.  Soon enough the last person left and it was just Steve and me.  I had no idea what time it was but I was pretty sure we weren't really supposed to be out.  However, I also had a premonition that this might be the time when Steve would get the courage to talk to me about us.  So I rode on that feeling and continued to shoot baskets with him for awhile.

Just when I was ready to give up on him and go to bed, he asked if I wanted to talk for a bit.  "Finally!!" I thought to myself.  We sat on some cement steps and he began talking.  "Well, I have a hunch that you and I want to be more than just friends."  I smiled broadly and he continued talking about how he had liked me for some time but wanted to make sure he understood my heart, see how I acted over time and discern whether or not I genuinely loved the Lord.  I laughed inside because I knew I had been doing the same.  I also knew I wasn't going to pursue him.  So that was another reason I had been silent and just waited.  After him talking for a bit he suddenly looked up, with a worried look in his eye and said, "Wait, I'm right aren't I?"  I laughed out loud and quickly put him out of his misery.  "Of course!  I've liked you for many months now.  But like you, I wanted to make sure I knew you were the real deal.  I needed to see you through some seasons to get a good feel for what kind of man you really are."  Relieved, he then continued and we talked for some time. 

We discussed our desire to only date with the intent to marry.  Neither of us wanted to mess around with something that couldn't potentially lead that direction.  Not that we knew for sure we would marry each other but, that's what we had spent so much time ahead of time doing, trying to discern if the other person was suitable.  Because if that was the case, once we got to know one another a bit better, then our end goal was marriage.

Our talk was a bit awkward at times as we stumbled through logistics, what we thought about each other, what Steve wanted our relationship to look like and what I felt about his thoughts.  But even though it was awkward, as we felt our way around, it was a talk that was needed.  We needed to define things, get things out in the open and finally be honest about our feelings.  It felt good to tell him with confidence that I really liked him and it was exhilarating to know he felt the same. 

After awhile it was really late and both of us knew we shouldn't be out any longer, especially by ourselves.  So he walked me back to my room and gave me a quick hug.  Those arms...I just loved being in his arms.  We still hadn't decided what we "were" yet.  We had just finally admitted our feelings.  I knew we'd figure it out in the coming weeks.  We decided to keep things a secret from the surrounding staff for awhile so that we wouldn't be a distraction to them or to any campers.  But to us, we were a secret no longer.  And as I fell asleep that night, I couldn't stop thinking about him saying those silly little words to me, "I have a hunch you and I want to be more than just friends...Wait, I'm right aren't I?"
*             *             *             *
"Lady friend?!  Lady friend?  What kind of cheesy name is that?!"  I thought to myself as we walked out of church.  It had been a week and a half since we had admitted we liked each other and the  obvious unknown of what we "were" was becoming apparent.  All morning, while we visited Steve's home church, he had introduced me as his lady friend and after awhile I was straight-up annoyed.  Either I'm his girlfriend or I'm not.  But lady friend, no thank you.

We climbed into the car to make the trek back up into the beautiful Santa Cruz mountains and I remained quiet wondering how to bring up my annoyance at not having an official title and not knowing exactly where I stood.  It wasn't my job to make the moves, that was his deal but, I was definitely feeling a bit uneasy about what my place was. 

"You're really quiet, " Steve ventured.  "Are you doing okay?"  After taking a deep breath, I finally spilled what I was thinking, "Yeah, I guess I'm just not sure exactly where we're at.  I'm mean, what 'are' we?  I know we like each other and everything but, where are we going from here?"  Steve paused for a bit and then answered.  "I've been wondering the same thing.  I haven't been sure what we should do this summer since we're in the middle of camp and stuff but, I'm starting to see that being in limbo is a bit strange."  I nodded in agreement.

The roads were getting windier and the trees thicker, as we made our ascent toward camp.  The silence hung in the air as both of us sat there pondering what our next move should be.  I was determined to let him figure it out since he was the leader and he was trying to discern the wisest thing for us to do.  Should we remain friends for the summer and wait until we got back to Cal Poly to be official so that we weren't distracted from our jobs at camp, or should we take the plunge and officially start dating now?

That's when he looked over at me with a determined look in his eye.  He had made a decision.  "Nikki, will you be my girlfriend?"  Immediately I answered, "Yes!"  And then we both started laughing.  "That wasn't so difficult was it?!"  He said.  I agreed it wasn't.  "But I still want us to keep things quiet." He went on.  "The worst is when people start dating at camp and everyone gets all wrapped up in their romance.  This is between you and me and maybe a few other pertinent people who will need to know, like our roommates and some Program Staff.  But other than that, let's keep things very quiet."  I thought that was wise and so I agreed.  It wouldn't be easy dating on the sly but, I knew it'd be simpler to do it knowing exactly where I stood rather than just being some sort of "lady friend."  This way, even if it had to be mellow, I'd at least know I was important.

The rest of the ride up was a relief.  I had a place in his life and he had a place in mine.  Knowing that, I felt we could face whatever God had for us that summer.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Part 4-Being Friends

In case you've missed part of the story, you can catch up with the following links.

"Andy called while you were out today, " my mom casually mentioned in conversation.  "He said that he'd love you to come hang out with him tomorrow in San Jose.  Some of your friends from Cal Poly are going to be there and he thought you'd want to come."  It was the middle of Spring Break and I was at home visiting my family.  Silently I wondered what "friends" he was talking about.  I knew that he and my Big Sis, Steph, had just started dating (which I was ecstatic about) so I figured she would probably be there.  But who else?  Steve lived just over the hill in Santa Cruz and I wondered if Andy had somehow schemed to get us both in the same place for the day.  Currently Andy was the only one who knew I had any feelings for Steve.  I had finally admitted it to him after that night at Megan's house.  Chances were that he was scheming, because he loved Steve and I knew Andy thought we'd be a perfect match.

Later that night, when I talked to Andy, my suspicions were confirmed.  Andy was willing to drive all the way up to Pleasanton (where my parents currently lived) to come get me and then he was going to drive all the way to Santa Cruz to get Steve.  Stephanie was visiting Andy with her roommate Lori and all of us were going to hang out for the day.  It was an unbelievable opportunity and I was quick to say, "Yes!"

When we had finally gathered everyone from around the Bay Area, we went and simply messed around for the day in San Jose running errands for Andy's mom (a small price to pay for getting to use her car), going out to eat at Chilli's, and then going on a silly walk through the nearby Toys R Us.  Somehow Andy and Steve ended up on the Pogo Balls, a throwback to their childhood for sure, and by the time they were done, we were getting the "eyes" from management to get the heck out of there.  So we did.  It was time for us to take Steve back home anyway for Andy still had to drive me home in the complete opposite direction. 

When we arrived at Steve's, his parents were both home and welcomed all of us so warmly.  I was immediately shy and just tried to fade into the crowd.  They were cooking up some sausages on the stove so we all stayed for a bit and chatted about the day while getting a little after dinner snack.  It was delightful to be there but totally overwhelming.  I had a feeling Steve was just as interested in me as I was in him but, there wasn't anything said between us yet.  So I felt the need to just be another friend that he knew and tried to be as inconspicuous as possible.  It was safer that way for both of us.

As we were leaving, Steve caught my eye and said something totally unexpected.  "Do you remember how you told me about that English class you're taking next quarter?"  I nodded.  His eyes sparkled as he spoke, "Well, it turns out I need it as a GE so I went ahead and registered for it.  Looks like we'll see a bit more of each other this Spring."  I about keeled over.  That class met four times a week.  Four times!  That meant I'd be seeing Steve nearly every single weekday.  I wasn't sure if I was excited or just plain scared to death!  In a moment, I decided I was both.  I smiled back at him and said, "Wow, we'll definitely be seeing a lot of each other, that is if you come to class.  Because as you know, I never miss class-ever."  He grinned back and said, "I think you can count on me to show up pretty regularly."

That conversation right there made my whole Spring Break.  Class with Steve Dauphin nearly every day.  Next quarter was definitely going to be exciting!
*             *             *             *
Spring Quarter was going really well.  I was seeing Steve most days of the week and we were starting to get to know one another much better.  Walking to and from class together helped and working on some class projects outside of class also helped too.  But things remained really mellow.  Both of us kept things pretty under wraps with our friends and there wasn't any mention of feelings at all between us.  We were just being friends and it felt wonderful.  I loved getting to know who he was more without the pressure of knowing we liked each other.  It was perfect.

However, I was definitely at the top of my game.  No showing up to class in sweats.  It took a bit of work but every day I wore some sort of cute skirt or outfit with ribbons adorning my hair.  I wasn't stupid.  I wasn't sure I had totally "caught" him yet, so I had to keep up appearances.  I'm not the girliest girl on the planet...well, I'd say I'm just not pretentious in that area.  So it definitely took some deliberate effort.  Yet the smile he had waiting just for me, whenever I saw him, made all the work worth it.

I had also gotten a job offer to work in the Camp Hammer kitchen.  All of the counselor positions had already been filled by the time I applied.  It wasn't what I was originally looking for because I wanted to be a Counselor.  However, it was a job and I was thankful for it.  Plus, Steve would be there working on the Program Staff.  That definitely made it worth it to me. 

Toward the end of the quarter I bought my first car, a 1990 Toyota Celica.  I paid $1000 cash for it and it was mine.  All mine!  The only problem was that it was a stick shift and I didn't know how to drive a manual transmission.  But I was determined to learn.  Right before finals I found myself at the AGO house and a bunch of us, Steve included, went out.  As I stalled and stopped, totally embarrassed at my horrible skills (I only had the car a few days at that point), Steve grabbed the stick shift, put his hand on mine and helped me shift.  I was relieved he knew how to drive the car and I instantly relaxed.  Within a few days of lessons from him, in which he showed immense gentleness and patience, I'd mastered the stick shift.  I figured, oh well, even though I looked like an idiot at times to him, it was still quite a fun way to learn.

The next week Steve left for camp early after taking his finals in advance, since he was on the Program Staff, and I stayed at Poly to finish up finals.  I had gotten so used to seeing him all the time!  I missed him.  So I sent him some cookies, partly in an effort to totally embarrass him knowing the staff up there would make him do something silly like sing for his package, and partly just to make some contact with him. 

I thought I was so brilliant.  The package was sent to Steve "The Prince" Dauphin (Dauphin literally means "prince" in French).  And the return address read, from Nikki "The Greek Goddess" Georgatos (because I'm Greek).  Ha!  It was the boldest I'd been with him in the whole six months.  And it sure embarrassed him all right.  All of the Program Staff who knew and loved Steve well up at camp were wondering who this "Greek Goddess" was coming from Cal Poly who sent Steve the cookies.

As for me, I just couldn't wait to see him again.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Part 3-Quiet Vigilance

 Part 3 Quiet Vigilance

A couple of weeks later, as Presidents' Day approached,  we were all getting ready for the annual AGO/LSM Ski Trip.  Pretty much the whole fraternity, guys and gals, were going to be staying at my Big Sis's parents' home in the Central Valley while heading up to the slopes during the day.  The weekend itself was fairly eventful.  There was a lot of time to get to know more people, snowboarding to do during the day and worship/devos all together at night.

On the way home, I got to ride in Donna's car.  She was definitely somebody that I looked up to as she was a few years ahead of me.  She and her friend Megan especially really took me in and looked after me during that first year.  Donna was pretty good friends with Steve and when I climbed into the car, I noticed that he was sitting in the front seat.  "This could be interesting, " I thought to myself.  As we pulled out of the driveway, he popped in a U2 cd.  I never really listened to U2 before but something inside told me to just pay attention during the drive home.  "See what Steve's like.  See what he's interested in.  Just pay attention."  These words ran through my mind as we drove back to Cal Poly. 

All the way home, that's what I did. Halfway there, at a rest stop, he switched spots and ended up next to me in the back.  I hardly said a word to him.  I just watched and learned as much as I could about him as he conversed with everyone in the car.  He was a Junior, much older than me, and seemed out of my league as he was a favorite amongst many in both AGO and LSM.  I was a little freshman, just shy of 19, and a new girl.  But despite these minor challenges, I still wanted to quietly learn more about him.   I wanted to know if this funny, incredibly magnetic guy had any substance to him. 

For truthfully, even though I felt drawn to him for some reason, that's what I cared about the most.  Was he genuine?  Did he truly have a heart for the Lord?  Was he real?  Because if anything were to ever come of my budding feelings, he would have to be the real deal.  I wasn't about to enter into a relationship with anyone I didn't think I could marry and I wanted a man who loved God with his whole life.  That's what mattered the most to me.  Everything else was secondary and I knew it.

All of these thoughts were swirling in my head as we careened toward home.  I hadn't come to any conclusions but had only determined that time would tell.  I was determined to remain quiet about things and just watch him for awhile hoping I'd get an opportunity to get a real glimpse at his heart.  Yet, despite my cautious attitude, though I wasn't exactly sure why, one of the first things I did upon arriving home, was buy a U2 cd.  I simply thought of it as a wise investment.  A very wise one indeed.  

*             *             *             *
It was another rainy day and many of us AGO had congregated in The Avenue, which was a popular hang-out spot (technically food court) on Cal Poly's campus.  It was pretty typical to find a few AGO there at any given time, but since it was raining, it was fairly packed.  Winter Quarter finals were coming up and it was getting close to LSM Activation.  I was busy cramming for a last minute midterm when Steve walked in with an announcement.  Camp Hammer was visiting the Career Faire in the University Union (the U.U.) and he wanted to know if anyone wanted to go get an application.  Evidently, he had already worked there for a few summers and was looking for more recruits.  Little did he know I had been looking for a summer job and working at a camp was at the top of my list.  I already had an application for Hume Lake but figured I'd give Camp Hammer a shot too.  I had been a camper there as a kid and had fond memories of it.  So I expressed interest and quietly followed him up to meet the Camp Director.

Neither of us said a word on the walk up.  We were both too shy.  But when we finally made it up to the Career Faire, I smiled at the director, grabbed an application and quickly headed back to my dorm room.  For some reason, whenever I was around that Steve Dauphin I could hardly breathe.  Once safe in my room, I determined to not think about him again (at least for awhile) and just focus on getting through finals and securing a summer job.  So I filled out the application quickly and sent it off.  Who knew if I'd be there for the summer or not?  I just had to wait to and see what God had planned.

 *             *             *             *
I was stuck and I felt a bit panicked about it.  I had three finals to study for still and no way to get back to the dorms.  And not only that but I felt a bit on edge because I had ended up at Donna and Megan's house with Andy and Steve.  Donna and Megan were upstairs deep in conversation about something and they were my ride.  If only I had brought my backpack with me!  I wasn't even sure how I had ended up there but I definitely felt nervous.  The kind of nervous that crawls into the pit of your stomach and sits there churning without relief.  "Are you all right waiting for a ride Nikki?"  Andy asked.  I responded, "Uh, sure.  I guess we have to."  Andy replied, "We'll just all hangout until the girls are done talking."  Easy for him to say.  He wasn't sitting across from animated boy who made me so nervous I could hardly move sometimes.  And Andy probably wasn't that worried about his finals either-typical smart boy who never had to study.  I definitely had to apply myself to do well. 

I, however, saw the writing on the wall, knew the girls might be awhile, and decided to just change my attitude and wait.  What harm could it do?  I'd get home eventually.  I just might have to pull an all-nighter.  That's when Andy and Steve started talking.  At first it was about the presence of a trivial political sign in the AGO front yard.  But as the night went on, they delved more into deeper issues about faith, life and theology.  I was floored.  Not only was this Steve Dauphin totally brilliant (and funny) but he had an incredible heart for the Lord.  I was riveted.  I didn't know there were guys out there like him who were smart, genuine and truly loved God.  It was almost too good to be true. 

The two of them talked for hours as we all waited and it was as if I was a spectator on the scene.  I knew Andy from high school back home and respected him tremendously.  So when I saw how much he respected Steve and how they talked to each other, I knew that Steve was the real deal.  I had been asking God for a chance to get a glimpse at Steve's heart and I had just gotten one.  And unfortunately for me, it was just the thing to set me over the edge.  He truly loved the Lord.  He was wise and he was smart.  Trying to keep my heart from running away from me, I got up abruptly and went into the other room to breathe.

But deep down I knew it was hopeless now.  I knew I'd just crossed the threshold from being interested in him to liking him-a lot.  Now,  I just had to keep myself from totally falling for him without knowing what he thought about me.  I kept telling myself that I simply had to keep being logical about the whole thing.  That'd be difficult but I was determined to do it.  I'd just wait, keep watching and be his friend.  Time would tell.

However, I knew from that moment on, he was someone who not only had tremendous integrity, was smart, fun and magnetic, but he was a man who loved God with his whole heart.  I had seen little glimpses here and there over the past three months.  But that night confirmed it for sure.  I got a window into who he really was.  I mysteriously didn't care anymore that I had studying to do.  That night's encounter was what I was waiting for.  And that alone made all the difference in the world.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Part 2- First Impressions


Winter Quarter had gotten off to a rough start.  Ever since I had broken things off with Brian, I tried to just throw myself into my studies.  That worked to a certain extent but, it didn't fill the void.  Whitney, my best friend, tried cheering me up by reminding me that LSM Rush was coming.  I could care less.  I knew we had been waiting since the fall to join Cal Poly's Christian Fraternity, Alpha Gamma Omega, as Little Sisters but, I was just plain melancholy.  The night of the first Rush event had all of our friends from the dorms buzzing.  "I bet there will be some really cute guys there Nikki!"  Whitney teasingly said.  "It is a fraternity you know."  Whatever, I'd still go but I just wanted the whole thing to be over with.

After donning my spiffiest duds, I met up with some of my other friends who were rushing and hopped into Kelly's SUV.  Luckily she had a car.  The rest of us had shown up at college without one.  Packed in like sardines, we all raced over to the AGO House to begin the first night of LSM Rush.  Much to my surprise, it was all so wonderful and my heart began to soften as I was quickly reminded of why I had wanted to join this group in the first place.  The girls were all older and so nice.  I could also tell immediately that they were genuine in their faith, encouraging and exactly who I wanted to surround myself with.  The guys were just the same and as Whitney had predicted, they were cute too-an added bonus.  I knew immediately that this is where I could land for my years at Cal Poly and feel like I was part of a family.  That night I shook off my disappointment and decided, no matter what, this is where I belong.  I was definitely going to rush LSM.

*             *             *             *

Winter Quarter had just gotten busier.  In between studying for my full load of classes and all of the reading they required, I was fitting in AGO  Initiate duties (girls were called Initiates, not pledges).  This included me having meetings, lovingly called One-on-Ones, with all twenty of the LSM girls and at least ten of the AGO guys.  In the meantime, I was also taking weekly tests about AGO history, learning member names, the Greek Alphabet (which I already knew-ha!) and cataloguing all sorts of other pertinent information into my brain.  Even though it was busy, I was having so much fun. 

One of these nights I went over to my Big Sister's house for dinner.  Stephanie had already been such a great Big Sis, buying me fun little gifts, writing me encouraging notes and just being a wonderful friend.  I loved her instantly and felt so lucky that I'd been chosen for her.  After dinner we decided to walk downtown since she and her roommates lived within walking distance and San Luis Obispo's famous Farmer's Market was happening that night.  On our way, we stopped in at the AGO House to see if anyone wanted to go with us. 

As usual, the downstairs common area was full of guys all looking for something to do.  While we were rustling up a group of people, out walked our Initiate Liaison Steve, with a gallon of milk in one hand and a witty comeback to one of the guys in his other hand.  I hadn't ever really noticed him before but for some reason, he really caught my attention this time.  He was really funny.  It took a little while for everyone to get ready to go but that was okay.  Steve was being hilarious and had encapsulated  the room's attention.  Mine included.  Once we were all ready to go, I whispered to Steph, "That's Steve Dauphin right?!"  She smiled and answered, "Yeah, isn't he funny?"  All I could think to respond was, "Yes!  He's so animated."  Little did I know at the time, that he had heard me.
On the walk downtown, he melted into the crowd just messing around and being silly.  But after that night, I began to notice that funny guy a little bit more.  He wasn't just another face in the sea of incredible guys.  In my mind's eye, I kept seeing him with that silly grin on his face, holding the gallon of milk and for some reason, whenever I did, I couldn't keep from smiling.   

Friday, June 8, 2012

Our Love Story-6 Weeks to 10 Years

 Six weeks from today Steve and I will celebrate 10 amazing years of being married.  I remember our first anniversary like it was yesterday-seriously.  I remember being in awe of all I didn't know ahead of time (and would not have been able to know) and all that I had learned in such a short period of time.  Ten years seemed so far away.  Now, the years have flown like the wind.  Time is so fleeting isn't it?

We've walked through so many things in these ten years and there is so much we will continue to walk through as time goes on.  There have been many joys-we are on the cusp of having five children, a nearly completed Masters degree in Math, have many faithful, lifelong friends that we adore, and most of all we are more in love with one another than ever before.  And there have also been difficulties, losses, moves and times of extreme perseverance.  But something that we believe so strongly is this, "That he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ."  Philippians 1:6.  Every step we've taken, from the very beginning has been God's good work in us, shaping us, changing us, causing us to persevere to look more like Him.  And this will continue for as long as we live.

The last ten years have been God's work. So in an effort to bring glory to Him, and in order to encourage others that God is the One who builds and sustains, I tell you our story, from the beginning.  I'll start today and continue on in segments for the next six weeks. It's not perfect nor is it the only way it should be done.  But it's ours.  And to me, it's beautiful because God has made it that way.

Also, I have to say, the original inspiration for writing our love story came from my dear blogger friend Jenny at the Life I Have Been Given who wrote hers a year or two ago now.  I'm blessed to know Jenny in real life and her story is just lovely.   Check it out too if you's another amazing story of God's faithfulness and His unfailing way of bringing two separate souls into one.
Our Love Story
Part 1

Telling him "No," was so difficult.  I could see the hurt written all over his face.  He had been patient with me.  He had pursued me.  And he had done it well.  But Andy was right.  We didn't share quite the same faith and as a result, there could be no future for us.  I had waffled for so long over this decision because I really did like him.  He was extremely smart, responsible, a total gentleman, had great values and was unfortunately very good looking.  Basically, to my eighteen-year-old mind, he was the whole package and I had just sent him packing.  Bah!  Good thing I never let him kiss me.  If I had, it would've been even more difficult to let him go.

I ran back to my dorm looking for some time to myself.  I knew Julia, my roommate, would ask me what was wrong and I didn't want to explain it.  She was an atheist.  And although we both had a great love for one another and a mutual respect, I knew she wouldn't understand me letting go of such a great guy like Brian just because he was Catholic and I was Christian.  Not that it was horrible he was Catholic.  I didn't doubt he had a faith and a strong one in fact.  He had made that clear over the months we had been seeing each other.  But still, in my heart of hearts, I knew that there were big differences.  And these differences could prove difficult in marriage, and I didn't think I could handle it.  He deserved someone who shared his same beliefs as well. 

I almost couldn't believe I had done it.  No, I didn't want Julia to comfort me.  I just wanted to be alone with my thoughts.  I searched my room and nearly at once, my eyes fell on my Bible that was laying on my bed.  Part of me felt a bit resentful.  Yet, I knew I had done the right thing.  I knew it.  Despite that though, in my heart, I asked God over and over, "Will it ever even happen?  Will I ever find a man who will pursue me and love me, yet at the same time love You even more?"  It was all I could do to keep the tears away.  So I grabbed my shoes and headed out to the one place I knew I could run off some steam by myself...Poly Canyon.  As I ran the miles away, the tears flowed freely and some clarity began to return to my mind.  I had done the right thing.  There would be somebody else.   

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Little Girl's "Baby"

 A doll is among the most pressing needs as well as the most charming instincts of feminine childhood.  
To care for it, adorn it, dress and undress it, give it lessons, scold it a little, put it to bed and sing it to sleep, 
pretend that the object is a living person - all the future of the woman resides in this.  
Dreaming and murmuring, tending, cossetting, sewing small garments, the child grows into girlhood,
from girlhood into womanhood, from womanhood into wifehood, and the first baby is the successor of the last doll.  

Les Miserables, Victor Hugo, pg. 364

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Hotspots-Psalm 121

There have been many times over the years that different passages of scripture have been monumental to my understanding of who God is and how much He loves me.  In a sense, they have literally shaped my faith.  I can think back affectionately on different Psalms that carried me through various trials.  There are passages in Colossians that became so important to my understanding of what it means to clothe myself in the gospel and set my mind on things above not on earthly things, that when I'm trying to retrain my thoughts, I immediately go there.  The summer before I went to Cal Poly, I memorized 1 Peter with a friend and those verses became pivotal to my understanding of the gospel itself and what God calls us to in suffering.

I call these passages hotspots.  They are my go-to's when I want to remember what God has taught me over the years as I've walked with Him.  Reading through them reminds me of where I've been at different points in my life and how faithful God has always been to teach me through my mistakes and carry me.

I've needed these passages.  Even just looking at them reminds me, I've been weary before, but God has always cared for me.  And in doing so, my mind is flooded with memories; at times they're of the struggles, but they are also of the triumphs and the absolute sovereignty and grace that God has given me in my life.

Some of my favorite passages run in the Isaiah 40's.  The poetry is beautiful.  There is prophecy about God redeeming Israel and Him reminding them that He's laid His anger aside and simply chosen to love them.

Incredible.  Humbling and soul-reviving.

"Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."  Isaiah 41:10

And then there is one of the first Psalms that ever spoke to my soul about God's help-Psalm 121.  Sure it's well known.  But to me, despite its fame, it never grows old because it has been soaked so many times into the depths of my heart, that the words have become a part of who I am.  And no matter how many times I hear it, I am grounded each time in knowing, "My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth."  Psalm 121:2.  Those words have been with me since I was a child.  And they will be on my heart until the day I die.

I've been weary lately.  I've got ten weeks left in this pregnancy and I can hardly seem to force myself to keep up with the everyday.  Part of me needs to extend myself more grace.  The other part needs to kick the laziness.  And lately so many life circumstances have caused me to look around and think, "I'm weary.  I'm trying to just persevere but I need that help.  I need that hope that God will set things to right; that He will protect me and fight for me."  And over and over again, I'm reminded.  "The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand.  The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.  The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life.  The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore."  Psalm 121: 5-8

And once again, with that reminder, I can dust off my feet, open up my hands and choose to say, "I will lift my help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth."  Psalm 121: 1-2

This song carried me after Joshua was born and is once again speaking so much truth into my heart.  For it is God's kindness that saves me and leads me continually to repentance (Romans 2:1-4).  And in my weariness, the God who never slumbers (Psalm 121:3-4) will watch over me.  It was a bit hard to find a suitable version of this song on YouTube without it seeming really cheesy.  But just listen to the music...listen to the words.  The message is timeless.

"Your kindness is what pulls me up and your love is all that draws me in."  I Will Lift My Eyes, Bebo Norman