The ballad of Team Awesome-o

Rebecca, Anita, Colleen, and me
(Okay, so it isn't really in ballad form.  Were there but world enough and time...)
Scene: Saint Louis, Missouri, December 2008.
I'm home for Christmas, and I spend an evening with my best buddies from high school (pictured to the left there, minus a few).  We chat and update on our lives.  I am feeling left out and sad. Each of them is in a long term serious relationship, but not me.  Waahhh.  (Note: This has been a recurring theme from about age 12 on.)  As Rebecca walked me out to the car, I said something to the effect of, "Yeah, I feel like nothing serious is going to happen for a while," (speaking of relationships). "You just never know about those things," she said encouragingly.  "Yeah right," I think to myself.  "I mean, it's true, but I know...I'm destined to die an old maid, wahhhh!"  Yeah, that self pity thing happened a lot.
Me, Sarah, Jen
Scene:  Portland, Oregon.  New Year's Eve 2008.  Against my usual homebody instincts, I hang out on New Year's with some college friends at a bar and then go downtown to see fireworks with my former boyfriend, just because we're bored and both single and why not?  There were no fireworks, by the way.  He thought there were, and since he's a native Portlander, I thought he had been to them.  Nope.  So we just ended wandering around town and chatting.  I know what you're thinking--did we rekindle the romance?  Noperz.  I went home lonely for someone but not for him.
Scene: New Year's Day, 2009!  I make a resolution: I will going to give all the online dating stuff one last try, and then I am going to wash my hands of it.  First, you have to know that I had gone on several Craigslist dates in 2008.  Some were hilariously not what I was looking for.  For example, a guy who was all about sports and fly fishing and hated reading. A guy who was very sweet and desperately interested...but a little too desperate.  A guy who hated Christianity because he'd been burned by the church in the past.  A guy who became offended when I let it slip that I was unimpressed by Sarah Palin.  Some were actually really great (a John Krasinski look alike I met blues dancing; a lovely guy doing a teacher training program) but had no future.  After dabbling in the Craigslist, scanning the Willamette Week personals, free Christian dating sites, and even the free trial period of eHarmony, I was more than a little disillusioned.  Given that sad history, I make the resolution and the line in the sand.  One last try, and then done.  If it won't work online, well, God is just going to have to plunk a man down in my path the old fashioned way.
I look on Craigslist, narrowing the search field by typing in "Christian."  That always narrows it down a lot.  There's the perennial one from "Pastor Nate" who is "LOOKING FOR A WIFE GOD BLESS", and then a few that have the word "Christian" in it because they say "no Christians, plz", and then a few that remain posted by actual Christian guys.  I see one that looks somewhat interesting. It contains the phrase, "If you're not a serious Christian, you can hit the "back" button now...I'm only interested in girls who are into Jesus."  That's a good sign, and the entry is grammatically enticing (no spelling errors, everything capitalized and punctuated properly, etc.)  The one thing that gives me pause is how much younger the guy was...he's just 21, and I'm 25.  "Eh, whatever.  It'll probably amount to nothing," I reason, somewhat cynically.
I reply to the ad!
Well, the guy responds.  He seems nice and not sketchy.  We talk on the phone for a while, and find it very easy to converse by phone.  After some lengthy emails and lengthier phone conversations, we decide to meet in person.  I ask him to send me a picture, and the only one he had was an awful picture.  It was taken on a cell phone and shot from below, so he looked really chubby, with a super scruffy beard at the time, and a hat.  My immediate reaction: "Uhhh...well, maybe he looks cuter in person."
I totally found this image here, so it's not mine.  But that's the Fireside.
Scene: The Fireside Lodge on Powell and 12th (which, sadly, has new ownership and a new name).  Early-mid January 2009.  I meet Allen (way cuter in person!) I walk in, wondering how it's going to go.  Will we talk as freely and easily in person as on the phone?  Will we run out of things to say?  When you walk into The Fireside, there is a half wall that blocks your immediate view of the rest of the coffee shop.  The suspense builds as I walk around it, trying to figure out if I'll be able to recognize Allen from his cell phone picture.  [I had sent him a picture of me, too.]  We find each other, and shake hands.  Thus begins a long conversation.  One of the first things I notice is that he has an adorable lisp.  I convince him to take off his hat, and he looks much better without it; he has nice, reddish-brown hair, and a beard.  "I'm not usually into beards," I think to myself.  In that conversation, we discuss dating.  Allen's never had a girlfriend before.  I've had a boyfriend before, so I know a bit more about the whole relationship thing.  We decide that we want to "friend" each other, first.  No, not Facebook friending. Just becoming friends and seeing if anything comes of it, romance-wise.
Scene: February 3, 2009.  Allen and I go on a long, long walk and talk.  Many words are spoken and lots of heart pitter-pattering.  At the end of it, we decide to be boyfriend and girlfriend.  Both of us know that, as Christians, the point of our dating is to determine if we want to get married to each other, so deciding to date feels like a big deal.
Scene: A house in the Hawthorne area on a cold and starry night, Friday, February 6, 2009.  Allen gets his first kiss...from me!  We walk for hours in the cold, but what does it matter?  We're in those fluffy first stages of falling in love!
We're engaged!

Scene: atop Pilot Butte in Bend, Oregon.  March 23, 2009.  Allen's been working on our engagement rings for about a month (which I know about).  Our pastor, Rick McKinley, was in the middle of preaching on 1 Corinthians 7 when Allen started coming to church with me, and he preached a lot in favor of marriage.  And in the words of Harry from When Harry Met Sally, "When you meet the person you want to spend the rest of your life with, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible."  It's Spring Break and we go on a short camping trip in Bend.  At the end of our first day there, we hike up Pilot Butte and at the top, Allen tells me I should take some pictures.  As I snap the shots of the vista, he kneels behind me, and when I've turned all the way around, there he is!  He's chewing gum while he tells me, "Jenny, I love you.  Will you marry me?"  I'm not normally a big fan of gum-chewing guys, but in this case, I will overlook it.  He presents me with a carved wooden ring.  It has a vine and leaf pattern etched into it. On the inside, it has "Team Awesome-o" scratched into the wood.  Team Awesome-o is our nickname for ourselves.  How it came about I am not sure...but that's us, Team Awesome-o.
August 8, 2009
Scene: Arbor School Amphitheater in Tualatin, Oregon.  August 8, 2009. 2 PM.
Eight short months after meeting, Allen and I say our vows to one another.
"Jenny, do you take Allen to be your wedded husband, to live together in marriage; do you promise to love him, comfort him, honor and keep him for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and health, and forsaking all others, be faithful only to him, so long as you both shall live?"
"Allen, do you take Jenny to be your wedded wife, to live together in marriage; do you promise to love her, comfort her, honor and keep her for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and health, and forsaking all others, be faithful only to her, so long as you both shall live?"
We have a lovely wedding.  It's at Arbor, where I was a teaching apprentice for two years.  August is the one month where you're likeliest NOT to have rain here in Portland, and we had a glorious sunny day.  Many friends and family came together to help us put on the wedding.  It was a wonderful day that went by in a blur.
It wasn't long before the dynamic duo became a tremendous trio...
June 2010
and then a quirky quartet…
April 2012
Cook number five arrived in 2013...
April 2015
And then there were six!
October 2017

Allen and I love our life together, except when we don't.  Let's be real: it isn't always sunshine and bubbles up in here.  But then, that's hardly a surprise.  He's a sinner.  I'm a saint sinner.  Of course it's going to be problematic at times. When we did premarital counseling, our pastor and his wife said, "As long as you go into marriage understanding its purpose, you can't really go wrong.  As long as you know it's about more than your own personal happiness--which can come and go--you'll be alright."
I believe that and hold on to it.  There are going to be rough patches. Marriage is about displaying the beautiful mystery of Christ and His Church, about God's eternal community of love. It's a sacrament: tangible access to God's graces. It is meant to make you holy, not merely happy.  Wise words that we would pass on to all others entering (or already in) marriage.
And the good times outnumber the bad.  The moments of being a team outnumber the moments of feeling at odds.  Every year of marriage is better than the one before, no doubt thanks to getting older and wiser.
So, there you have it...the story of Team Awesome-o, so far!  This is a story that is to be continued "till death us do part."  And you're welcome along for the ride!

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