Travel Story-2016 to 2017
I left off with my move to Wisconsin being exactly what my heart needed to heal. I felt that I needed to start 2016 off right. I did a Whole 30, read lots of self-help books, cut ties with more folks in my life who were proving to bring me down, and I marked off a bucket list item--attending the national IF Gathering conference in Austin, TX in February 2016. I had been part of my local IF Table since moving to Eau Claire. During the monthly gatherings over food and meaningful conversations, I connected to new friends and as mentioned previously, my future sister-in-law.
IF Gathering is a women's ministry founded by Jennie Allen, one of my favorite spiritual authors. This ministry gave me lots of needed encouragement during this healing time in Eau Claire by providing reading materials, powerful speakers, and the courage to CHANGE. I had watched their simulcasts from my home, listened to the speakers on podcasts, and subscribed to their daily inbox deliveries. I had dreamed of going to the women's conference for years. I was able to nab a ticket and knew that this trip would be pivotal. I knew it was an important part of my detox and renewal. I bought a plane ticket to Austin and planned to stay with friends.
As I attended the weekend conference, I was truly rejuvenated and inspired. During a panel discussion on marriage/singleness, I was encouraged that I didn't need to try to control this aspect of my life anymore. My ways of trying to force this had not worked and I was done. I felt so emboldened and FREE. I was ready to return to Wisconsin and continue to pray and be open to God's way.
After I came home, I was sitting just scrolling through my phone. I saw my friend put up a picture of her and her brothers out to dinner. I remember that I had stored away the idea of meeting her cute brother :) I went out on a limb and contacted her. She told me he was still single but away on a mission trip that exact week (this earned him more points in my book as I was happy to hear he had a heart for serving others). When he returned, we started messaging. That was Valentine's Day 2016. We have talked every day since. It all started to make sense. I had come here for a job, healing, and a new start BUT I knew immediately HE was the real reason I came here.
What ensued after was the happiest year of my life. I have often thought, I don't know if I will ever be that happy again and that's ok. I count myself blessed that I was able to experience this kind of love. It was love at first sight for me as we met at Stella Blues in downtown Eau Claire. I knew I would marry him, but I also knew he wasn't there yet. He was still in his healing period post-divorce. I felt God whisper to me on our first date, "You're home. Be at peace. Give him the time he needs and just enjoy dating him." I had my ups and downs, the usual trust issues, but overall, I had NEVER experienced this kind of peace with dating. We took our time and eventually, I met his kids and the rest is history!
During our dating, we had SO much fun. Just thinking back to all the fun adventures, dates, and meals out makes me sad during this quarantine time. I know we will get back to adventures in the future, but I am so thankful for all we experienced. From day one, we were always looking for magic. Whether that was exploring a new place to eat, a road trip, or just trying a new dish at home, he will always be my greatest adventure and partner in crime. My big goal for this blog is to chronicle ALL the amazing adventures I share with my hubby, hopefully inspiring others too!
My top experiences during this dating time? So hard to choose, but I would say:
restaurants in Eau Claire: Johnny's Steakhouse, Mona Lisa's, and the Informalist would be my top 3
road trips: La Crosse, WI to the Christmas lights and staying in the Charmant Hotel (beautiful old candy factory turned boutique hotel), MN Landscape Arboretum outside of Minneapolis, Superior and Bayfield, WI, seeing the Apostle Islands and exploring this beautiful and charming area. Chuck made a really fun journey down to Tennessee (my home state) to celebrate my birthday with me and see my home town. We enjoyed seeing Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, the Great Smokies and most importantly DOLLYWOOD during his visit.
mission trips-During our dating period, Chuck and I traveled on 2 mission trips with our church and Living Water International, a nonprofit devoted to providing clean drinking water to communities in need around the world. I will do separate posts on the beauty of humanitarian based travel, but these trips were essential for us. We got to meet new friends, bond in all new ways, and find that we loved serving those in need together. Being altruistic became a cornerstone of our relationship. We went to Honduras and El Salvador in 2017, and we can't wait to go on more future trips!
After we got engaged, I spent the rest of 2017 traveling back and forth to TN planning our wedding, which was in February 2018. We also selected Disney World as our honeymoon destination. I had no idea going back there as a couple who BOTH loved the place would ignite a new passion for Disney EVERYTHING in me :)