Christmas Gifts

We all remember that one Christmas where we got the best gift ever! Maybe you were like Ralphie and wanted a “Red Ryder Carbon Action 200-shot Range air rifle,” and actually got it. Or maybe you wanted a baby doll that was life-like in every way and got her wrapped pretty in a box on Christmas morning. Whatever it was, I’m sure it’s engraved in your mind as the best Christmas ever! Mine has to do with the very title of this blog. Let me give a little back story for you. 

Back in 1991, when I was 5 years-old my family went to Disney Land. Mind you that’s the year 101 Dalmatians was rereleased into theaters. I’ll never forget we had just gotten into the park and we were making our way to some specific place in the park, that part I don’t remember the details on, I just remember we weren’t stopping anywhere else on the way. That’s when I saw it, this huge 101 Dalmatians display in one of the shop windows. My heart fell head-over-heels in love with those spotted creatures. If I would’ve been a cartoon my eyes would’ve had spotted hearts popping out of them (see what I did  there? ;). I was completely in love and I was not going any further until I had my hands on one of those spotted plush creatures. I bugged my parents until finally my mom’s cousin Janet, whom was with us, took me to get a stuffed 101 Dalmatian pup. I took that puppy with me everywhere! 

From that point on I only saw black & white spots. Everything I had was black and white. This wasn’t just a short fad, for years I was obsessed with the 101 Dalmatians. You guys, I’m talking yearrrrsss. So as you can imagine, my one hearts desire was a real-life Dalmatian pup. I’d been asking my parents for one ever since we’d gotten back from Disney Land. That was the only thing I talked about, and asked Santa for that following Christmas. 

Christmas Eve had come and we were having Christmas at my Grandma’s house with my aunts and uncles. There was a knock on the door-It was Santa! He had a box wrapped and it was for me! I was so exited and I remember being a bit confused on why I was the only one getting a gift. I remember him telling me he heard I’d been a very good girl and the package was heavy, to be careful with it. We got it carefully set down on the floor and I started unwrapped it. The sweetest puppy I had ever seen popped it’s head out of the box and I was completely smitten! I couldn’t get that box open fast enough, my heart was so full! I was so excited, I immediately named him Freckles! 

This is a picture of pure joy. That moment is forever engraved in my mind and my heart and when I think of my favorite Christmas my heart goes to that night and it’s been spotted ever since.

Last Christmas, my 3rd Christmas with One Cute Cowboy, he had another one of those memorable, special gifts. I’m a collector of vintage books, and for years I’d searched for a 1st Edition The Hundred and One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith. Christmas morning Riley eagerly handed me a gift. I opened it and looking up at me was a 1st edition The Hundred and One Dalmatians. My eyes teared up. I knew he understood my heart. It was such a thoughtful gift. I’m so lucky to have this thoughtful, caring man in my life. One that truly understands and hears my heart. 

Now I know Christmas isn’t about getting  gifts-Christmas is about the gift. When God sent the ultimate gift, Jesus Christ, into the world that cold night in a tiny stable. My heart is overwhelmed when the imagery of that night comes to mind. I’m filled with hope and gratitude. For I truly hope every one of you takes time to remember “the reason for the season.” For there is so much more to Christmas than pretty packages and fun Christmas carols. A king, the King was born that night to be the Prince of Peace, and to bring hope into the world, and to bring redemption to you and I. O holy night, indeed! Praise be to God! 

I hope all of you have had a beautiful Christmas! May peace and hope be with you! 

Story time…

Since yesterday was the anniversary of the day Riley proposed to me, I decided I’d tell you a story about how One Cute Cowboy and I ended up together and how God is good!

From a young age, I loved music. I sang everywhere I could growing up and eventually learned to play guitar and learned to plink around on a piano. Fast forward to the college years. I studied Commercial Music (no, not music for commercials) and  Entertainment Business at South Plains College in Levelland,TX. After graduating I spent some time contiplaiting what my next step was: Austin,TX or Nashville,TN.

After 8 months, I finally decided to take the leap to Nashville. I lived there for 3 years, worked at the famous Grand Ole Opry, and met life-long friends and had some really great experiences. I played music here and there and though I enjoyed Nashville, I knew I would never make a permanent home there. I moved there in hopes to start a music career, I feel like what really happened was I truly became myself there. I learned things about myself and who I was in the time I spent there. Then the opportunity kind of arose to move back home for awhile and help take care of my grandma. I was kind of burnt-out on Nashville, and thought it’d be nice to go back home for awhile.

Now, in a parrallel world, Riley had been growing up, riding horses, chasing cows, and roping everything he could only 84 miles away. He started working with his dad after high school and after a few years and a couple of adventures, he decided to join the military. He went off to Boot Camp in Georgia, and came back and was stationed in Colorado Springs, CO. Then (at the time I had been in Nashville for about a year) he willfully went to Afgahanistan. He was there for a full year before returning home. ( I thank God every time I think of this, He fought for and brought my future-husband home so I could become One Cute Cowboy’s wife and build my life with him long before I knew him or knew God’s plan for me.) He spent one more year at base in Colorado before joyously returning to his family ranch, only 60 miles from me, 2 months after I, myself, had just moved home.

I remember one of my Nashvillian-raised friends making the comment, “Just watch you’ll move back to Oklahoma and fall in love with some cute cowboy!” I distinctly remember rolling my eyes and telling her she didn’t know where I was from. I was moving from a city of around 168,000 people to a county of right under 2,000. There wasn’t a cowboy in a 60 mile radius I didn’t already know.

For the next 10 months I stayed days and nights with Grandma, helping take care of her, and helping my dad with his puppies, and just enjoying a quiet, single life. I didn’t have any concrete plans on what I would do next, and really had no kind of timeline, I was just taking life in stride, watching Andy Griffith & Bonanza with Grandma and playing lots of dominos. Life was good. I was happy!

Then, one day in mid-May, we ran into a couple of family friends. Like us, they were in the middle of working their Spring calves. The conversation got around to if I was seeing anyone. I knew then and there Sherri had something up her sleeve, for since I was in High School she and her sister had been trying to set me up with this boy and that boy, just regular ‘ol matchmakers. She went on and on about this “young man” she just knew I’d hit it off with, how sweet and polite he was, how he was fun and kind. Once again, I distinctly remember rolling my eyes. “HA!” I thought, “that’s the last thing on my mind, and I’m definitely not interested in any cowboy!” She kept mentioning how they’d be branding again that Thursday, and how I should come out. Now,if you’ve been with me for awhile, you’ve probably read my Rancher’s Wife post. I’ve only ever helped with my own family’s brandings, so the thought of going to help with someone else’s branding was a bit daunting. I went back and forth about it and had pretty much decided I wasn’t going to go, I really wasn’t all that interested in dating at the moment anyway. The night before, Sherri called me and said she’d had an idea. She said that they always like to have someone take photos during one of their Spring brandings. So if I wanted, I could bring out my camera and take pictures and then help with lunch, then I wouldn’t feel the pressure of helping since I wasn’t used to drag branding (my family had always used a chute to brand, though that’s not entirely the case now that Riley has come into the picture 😉  So I begrudginly agreed to go.

The next morning I got up early to drive the 45 miles out to the place they were branding. It was unusually cool and foggy for May. I met Sherri at the house and we drove over together to serve a little morning snack after they’d gathered the calves. I was nervous, a bit embarrassed even though I was assured he knew nothing about it, so there wasn’t any real pressure there. For all he knew I was just a girl that came out to take photos. We pulled up to the pens and there he was on his horse, getting a calf that had turned back. He was grinning from ear to ear-I could tell he was loving what he was doing. I remember that making me smile.

Sherri and I had parked and gotten out the coffee and little snacks. The whole crew came over to get something warm and I quickly took the chance to look at his face while serving him coffee. His eyes were clear blue, and again, he was grinning. I quickly looked away, but even after I looked away, I could feel his eyes on me. He was handsome in the most rugged, best way.

We got over to “the Dandy” to sort and work the cattle. I started watching and taking photos.

These are just a few from that day, though I have well over 100. I mean, how many people can say they have a picture of their spouse the very first day they met? I’m so happy to have these. Anway, on with the story…

They finished working the calves, and it was time for us to serve lunch. We set everything out, and Sherri came over to me and said, “Let’s take over some tea to Riley and his friend, and I’ll introduce you.” We walked over to where they had just sat down with their plates and he jumps up for Sherri to introduce us. He was trying to hold his plate, take off his hat to politely shake my hand, while I was trying to hand him his drink and shake his hand, all at the same time-it was a pretty funny sight I’m sure. He said, “It’s a pleasure to meet you! It really is,” with that big grin spread across his face. That was it, that’s all he said. That was the only real exchange we had the day we met, except for when he left, he thanked us, as a group, for lunch, and smiled once again and repeated the same sentence from before. Haha! It was endearing, but I was just sure he wasn’t that interested in me. I mean, that’s all he said. The whole day. The day was done, so I left with Sherri to go back to my car and head back to town. On the way there Sherri informed me that though Riley didn’t know I’d be out there today, he did know about me. Stormie, her niece, had been telling him about me as well. She asked if he were to ask for my number, if I’d mind her giving it to him? I told her that’d be perfectly fine, but I just had a feeling he wouldn’t be asking for it, but it was a good day,and I had fun regardless if he was interested or not…so I told myself.

The following day we were working our own calves so I’d been out all morning and half the afternoon helping with that. We got in late afternoon and I decided to take a nap. When I woke up, I had a missed call and a message from a number I didn’t recognize. I quickly listened to the message and LOW & BEHOLD, it was from HIM! The One Cute Cowboy himself asking if I wouldn’t mind calling him back. I called him back and he asked me on a date for the next night! I was excited, I was nervous, I was worried we’d end up being too different. The next night rolled around and we went to eat in town and we just talked. I mean really talked. About anything and everything and I was surprised at how immediately at ease I felt with him. I had my mind set out that I was not going “out of my way” to impress this guy,that had never worked in the past, and if this guy was going to like me, it was going to be for all of me. We had so much fun, that night, talking and dancing on a dirt road. For the next 6 months we were pretty much inseparable. Then October 27th, 2013 One Cute Cowboy asked me to be his wife! The rest is pretty much history: we got married April 5, 2014, and never looked back!

This is a picture of right after Riley proposed!

The reason I wanted to write this, and in such detail (sorry I know this post is long) is One Cute Cowboy was not in my “plan,” but thank the Lord, he was God’s plan for me! We went from growing up merely 60-80 miles apart our whole childhoods, never meeting, then Riley literally went across the world to war, and I moved 1,000 miles away from home to pursue music, only for God to bring us right back where we’d both grown up, to meet each other, fall in love, and make our life here. I’m amazed at the persistence of God. There were times I questioned if what I was doing was God’s plan for me (as I assume most of us do) but now I see all those steps were for a reason. God knew Riley and I neither one were ready until that exact moment in time. I thank God for not giving me all those things I thought I “wanted,” and for showing me that He truly had a better plan for me.

So there’s our little (condensed) story of how we ended up together! If you made it this far, thank you for reading!  There’s a lot of other details, but I didn’t figure you have all day 😉  

It’s the weekend! Hope it’s a blessed one!