27.9.12

Lauren Loo Bear | Child Portraits

“she pictured to herself how this same little sister of hers would, after time,
 be herself a grown woman...

and how she would gather about her other little children, 
and make their eyes bright and eager 

and how she would feel with all their simple sorrows, 
and find a pleasure in all their simple joys."
lewis carroll - alice in wonderland
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She is full of life, personality, expression and beauty.   My baby sister is kind of a young woman.  Enjoy getting to know one of the best people I know.
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26.9.12

Enjoy Writing | Oh My My My | Part 12

i know you are waiting, 
and i know that it is not for me.
but i'm here and i'm ready
and i've saved you the passenger seat
josh ritter - kathleen


part 1 | part 2 | part 3 | part 4 | part 5 | part 6 part 7 | part 8 | part 9 | part 10 | part 11


I paused and stared at the envelope.  And then, without so much as a flinch, I gathered all my mail into my arms and stomped upstairs to my apartment.  There I set my mail next to me at my desk.  I sat down.  Opened up my e-mail and started working.  After a few moments I took Caleb's envelope into the other room and set it on the table (it was staring over my shoulder, and I have a very hard time writing when someone is watching me.)  I finished a handful of emails. I opened Photoshop to edit for a blog post.  I texted Becca "Caleb sent me something in the mail."  While I was waiting for her reply, I opened my prayer journal for Caleb and wrote down lyrics to a worship song and few in-the-moment thoughts.  "Let it be said of me // My source of strength // My source of hope // Is Christ alone // I seek no greater honor than to know Him more // And I count my gains but losses to the glory of my Lord//  My stomach has been in knots over this boy.  And now sitting in my living room there is a 'very special' package from him.  I have no idea what's inside and I have NO idea what to expect.  Man.  I really think I love Caleb.  I'm not really sure about this whole 'being in love' thing, but I do know I love and care for him.  He means so much to me.  So.  We'll see what this says? GAH!"


Becca answered "What is it?!?" "I don't know.  I haven't opened it yet." Becca was shocked.  "Why not?"  "Because I'm afraid."  In my mind there were three possible scenarios.  Number One:  Caleb was very sorry he had hurt me, and his conscience was catching up with him, so in order to "clear" himself, he needed to apologize to me.  And that was that.  I didn't just want an apology, though.  I wanted him to want to be with me as much as I wanted to be with him!   Number Two:  Caleb really, really missed the idea of being my boyfriend and (like a regular guy) "all of a sudden!" realized he wanted what he couldn't have.   Maybe he even "heard from God" that I was the one!  One now he was finally ready to ask me out.  But I didn't just want him to want me:  I wanted him to have grown, changed.  To own up to his actions, and stop deflecting his fearful reality.  I wanted him to admit he had been cowardly.  I wanted him to want to try with me, not put me on some spiritual lock-down where God-on-High had already made it clear we were made for each other, and I had no say in the matter.  I wanted him to be willing to fight "the dragon," not coming running because he found out the dragon had died in his sleep.  Number Three:  Caleb really did change and grow.  He wanted to apologize, and also want to try to have something "more" between us.  I wanted him to be able to clearly say "Here's what I did wrong.  I'm sorry." and "Here's what I'd like to do.  I don't care if it's hard.  I'm willing to try."  Character growth and romantic feelings, pa-leez.

My phone buzzed.  "Kristen.  There is nothing to be afraid of.  He didn't send you hate mail.  Just open it."  I was afraid because I knew once I opened it I'd know if scenario 1, 2 or 3 was where he was it.  I had a 2 in 3 chance of hating his letter, and being very disappointed, again.    So long as I didn't know what he said, I could imagine that it was best-case scenario, right?!
i texted janet too ;)  she and becca lived together... and they were my listening ears time and time again when i had some "caleb" things to talk about.

I turned off my computer.  I turned off my phone.  I closed all the closet, room, and office doors in my house (it made me feel more alone.)  I walked over to the living room with my journal, which was filled with the page upon page of prayer for this boy.  Filled with page upon page of trueness for my soul.  Words and phrases of that little personally-penned book where looping through my body.  All those days (those long, long days) of fighting, or, er, resting, or fighting to rest.  All those hours of sickness in my heart and belly.  All those tear-singed minutes where I swallowed confusion the size of softballs.  All those seconds that could be not-too-bad and than *snap* one second later it was misery.  My brain wasn't able to handle this alone.  I got my hands and eyeballs involved.  We wrote together, and read together, and forced true things onto paper.  

[I know it is a little lengthy, but these snippets of my journals make the snippets of Caleb's letter that much more meaningful.] 
  • "I could not tell her that the same duration of waiting was required of her.  She will have to take Christ's yolk upon her and learn of Him.  It is easy to talk oneself into a decision that has no permeance, easier, sometimes, than to wait patiently."  Elisabeth Elliot

  • "I am not asking you to understand, I am asking you to receive.  Do you want food? Come." M. Lloyd-Jones

  • Overthinking every moment you're alive // Like the dream that never ends // You're getting nowhere // But running as fast as you can. Fight the Fear - Caleb Chapman
  • "The craftsman strengthens the goldsmith, and he who smoothes with the hammer and strikes it with anvil says of the soldering 'It is good,' and they strengthen it with nails so that it cannot be moved." Isaiah 41:7

  • Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus // And to take Him at His Word

  • "You say 'Protect me.  Keep me.' And then you go with Him, and you go where He wants you to go, into His glorious pastures." M. Lloyd-Jones
  • "...they pour out a whispered prayer..." Isaiah 32:17

  • "You are good and You do good.  It is good for me that I was afflicted, before I was afflicted I went astray." Psalm 119:16

  • Teach me the patience of unanswered prayers // George Coley
  • "If you are not firm in faith, you are not firm at all." Isaiah 7:9

  • "He packs our lives with surprises all the time.  It is gloriously uncertain how He will come, but He WILL come in! how He will keep His word, but He WILL keep His word!" Oswald Chambers

  • "The Lord will speak to His people, 'This is rest.' For it is precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line. Isaiah 28:12-13
  • "It is only because He is so strong that He can be so tender; the strength is as essential as the tenderness." M. Lloyd-Jones
  • "Steadfastness, that is holding on.  Patience, that is holding back.  Expectancy, that is holding one's face up! Obedience, that is holding oneself in readiness to go and do, or stay and not do. Listening, that is holding quiet and still, so still, as to hear." S.D. Gordon
  • Day 9 // Be Brave // "Shadrach, Meshach and Abendago said to the King 'If this be so, our God who we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace.  But if not? Be it known to you, O King, we will NOT serve your gods." Dear Lord, how beautiful and stunning is the heart of a believer who doesn't waver; who knows who You are, even when his life is on the line!  These men were brave in You, their strength was found in Your ability, Your character, Your final word.  They knew you were able to deliver them, and they also knew you might choose not to... and they proceeded anyway.  I long for a brave heart like that.  And I know Caleb does too.  God, I ask you to make him unshakeable in the unknown, strong in testing, and brave to the point of death because You are his and he is Yours.  Help him not fear.  You can do that!  You are strong enough!  You can change hearts and make them bold!  I believe you can do this! Amen.
I finally did it.  I had a fireplace in my hips and the smoke was making my head light, and the heat was making my arms and cheeks sweat.  I slid the soft, smudged envelope open and found seven, handwritten, cursive notebook-lined pages inside.  My heart raced as a touched and stared at the pages.  Caleb really struggles with writing.  It is one the qualities he hates most about himself, and wishes he was better at.  This must have taken him forever to write.  Seven pages for him was like an end of semester assignment.   These words were labored over.  He chose them difficultly and carefully.  As I read, I entered a world from which I've not yet recovered:
Dear Kristen, I don't even know how or where to start this letter... I hope I can get what is in my heart out on paper.  As you know, I can't write half as good ["well." ;) ha.] as you.  Hopefully it will make sense, but I'm sure you'll understand because you always seemed to know what I was trying to say, even when I struggled to get it out.  You would always wait so patiently on me to try to find the words to speak.  Makes me cry just thinking about it.  So, where do I even start?
He went to describe his desire for fulfillment in life.  How he desired to set goals and then achieve and conquer them.  Though he knew "only God can fulfill," he couldn't help but create good, "biblical" targets to shoot for, and goshdarnit, if he was going to shoot for it, he was going to hit the bulls-eye.  If it was buying land and building a house, or having time with the Lord in the morning, or becoming an incredible violinist, he was not going to fail ("by the strength of God!" of course).  His ability to successfully complete and "get" what he set out for ("to the glory of God!" of course), became his source of hope.  And the highest "priority" in his world was finding and securing a wife.  In his imagination and mind, the process of "finding" this girl was a very specific, narrow road.  He would feel X, he would pray and "hear from God" and talk with his parents which would lead to a phone call to her father, if she also felt X and the father approved, they could move forward into "courtship" where they would work out the practical details that needed to be in place before marriage, and then they'd get married!  All the while, the feelings of passionate love and the assurance of God's approval would never be in question.  Before the process even began, he would know that "this is it."

He then went into detail about how stupid and selfish this way of life was.  He assessed things in life based on how they pleased him, and worked how he wanted them to.  He said he did this with me.  He spent so much time evaluating me and trying to decide if I was "everything" he wanted; if I was a good fit for his hypothetical "success marriage."  In the process, he managed to fearfully and selfishly hurt me.  He apologized.
Your faith and trust in God makes you unshakeable and you are resting in Him.  But, I know I disappointed you and hurt your heart.  I was a coward, and for that I am ashamed.  
Somehow I thought I was supposed to feel totally "crazy" over you, and since I wasn't I couldn't go forward.  Now I see that this was wrong.  We would have to move forward to see if were were crazy about each other.  But I guess I confused "I like you a lot" and "I'm in love with you."  I realize now how much I want to see if we could fall in love, if you could be the girl I lay my life down for.  I think if you and I were in love, we could do anything.  
There was a lot of letter left.  He couldn't possibly spend the rest of the letter apologizing?  Right?  There has to be something more.  I struggled between reading faster to see what else he had to say, and reading slow to soak in every precisely chosen word.
...Kristen, I miss you.  Not because you are a girl and I miss "talking to a girl."  No, I miss "Kristen."  I can't believe I let you go.  Dang, I think I'm going to cry again.  Oh, Kristen.  What was I thinking?
...I think I have lost all your trust (and your family's and friend's, too).  You deserve a fairy-tale story.  I blew the chance you gave me and I regret it with tears.   The hard reality sets in on me that I may not have the amazing chance of you again.  But I'm tired of sitting around, doing nothing, listening to my fears when the girl of my dreams is passing by.  So, I want to date you.  I want to be your guy.  And if I get burned, I get burned.  Whatever the risks are, I'll take them.
...I can't say I know you are "the one" but I believe this is what God wants me to do.  And if He wants me to get hurt, or for this to not work out, I trust Him.  His goodness and ways are better than mine.  If that would be the way He wants to make me more like Him, then "so be it Lord."
...I realize that this will be hard and I'll likely have to go through hell, but I will.  I can't blame you if you don't desire this, but you can't blame me when there is a girl like you... I can't help but try.  I want to earn your trust, no matter what it takes.
...I would like to ask you a question:  Kristen Leigh, would you let me have the privilege  of going out with an angel like you? Would you go out with me?
Sincerely, Cowboy

"There's a want and there's a need //There's a history between
Girls like you and guys like me // Cowboys and angels"



ps.  I understand that you will probably need time to pray and think about this.  You might never respond at all.  There is no pressure.  I just had to let you know where I was at.  
pps.  There's a song that pretty much says it all, Snipey.  It's called "I Told You So" by Randy Travis + Carrie Underwood.

My mind was in scrambles.  Did I just read this? What is happening?  Oh my gosh.  Without thinking too hard or too long, I ran to my computer and turned it on.  ComeoncomeoncomeoncomeOOOOOON.  Finally I was able to open Safari and YouTube search "I Told You So."  The short instrumental intro began.  I had chills so bad that they hurt.  Carrie sorrowfully and heavily and beautifully sang the first verse.
Suppose I called you up tonight
And told you that I love you?
And suppose I said I wanna come back home?
And suppose I cried and said I think I've finally learned my lesson?
And I'm tired of spending all my time alone?
 
If I told you that I realized you're all I ever wanted
And it's killing me to be so far away
Would you tell me that you love me too?
And would we cry together?
Or would you simply laugh at me and say
"I told you so!"?

At this point I was weeping.  Weeping.  Goat-face, double-chin, stumbling, gasping, chugging, drooling, out-of-control weeping.  Before the first chorus even finished, I stood up and sprinted out of my house with the letter gripped tightly in one hand, keys in the other.  Barefoot, and without even shutting the door into my house, I jumped steps, ran along the sidewalk and grass, and let the rain join me on my race.  Quite wet, I found my car in the parking lot and I squealed away, forgetting to buckle my seat belt, turn on my headlights and even start the windshield wipers.  After I zipped around the corner (with no accidents or police tickets) I parked in front of Janet and Becca's house (only two-three minutes away.)  I slammed open the door, the only thing knocking were my knees.  Out of breath, I stood in the entry way, waving the letter in the air.  They both turned around from the table, where they and Audrey were eating lunch.  "What does it say?"  Without a word, I handed it Becca.  Janet stopped feeding Audrey and ran behind Becca to read over her shoulder.  I paced in the family room, cracking my knuckles, smoothing my palms and running my hands up and down my waist.  Audrey sat there in her bib, probably eating sour cream.

Both ladies finished reading and said something along the lines of:  Wow.  He is a different person.  God really changed him.  This is so exciting.  Are you happy?  What do you think?

I had not fully processed the letter.  How do you even begin?  I was going to Florida to see my family the very next day, so I wanted to talk with my parents in person before I gave Caleb my answer.  After I arrived in Florida, I excitedly and nervously showed my parents the letter.  I was starting to get afraid. What if he hurts me again?  I don't *have* to do this.  My mom understood my fears - and though she thought the letter was very nice, she wasn't "sold."  She knew it was my decision, but she also had some serious questions for Caleb.  My dad, on the other hand, said "Who are you kidding?  This letter had you at hello."

I prayed and thought and talked and came to a few conclusions.  First, Caleb was right.  He did need to earn my trust back.  While love is unconditional, trust is not.  Trust in someone is based on their trustworthiness.  Second, my mom was right.  There were some serious questions to be asked and worked through.  I was not about to be a naive girl.  I decided that the only way I would even consider dating him was if he gave me his word that he would come to Maryland for at least a month.  I wasn't willing to endlessly date long-distance and go back to how things were before.  We needed to be in person.  I needed to see what he was like with my friends.  With me, day in and day out.  Did we get bored of each other?  Would he back out again?  It was final.  Come and try, or stay and move on. But, third, my dad was right.  This letter had me from hello.  I mean, hello, the sharp-jawed, blue-eyed, magical country man had been thinking about me the that whole time.  I missed me.  AND!  Not only did he want to try this now, he was changed.  He was brave!  I'd prayed for him to be brave!  And he didn't used to be very brave!  But he was just so vulnerable... and brave! And he missed me.  And. I'd be praying for him!  And missing him, too!  Now I needed to be brave.  Caleb might not be that ready to date me.  He might not be comfortable with the pressure of coming so soon.  What will he do for work?  His job is a family business... it's not like he could transfer to a different Ruby Tuesday location.    Where will he live?  He doesn't even own a vehicle.  "His" truck is the company truck he shares with the family.  His land.  He'd be leaving his house, halting production and slowing down it's process.  He'd be leaving home and family for the first time ever.  I know it might only be for a month, but that is still significant.  It wasn't a vacation with friends for a month.  This was a huge step, meaning so much more than just "moving."  It was breaking free from spiritual bonds, it was proceeding even though the fire might burn him.   I couldn't pad it softly for him.  I couldn't make arrangements for him.  If he wanted to try this with me, he could come here and figure it out.  And I needed to trust God that even if he wasn't ready for that, and if Caleb left my life once again, that I would be okay.  

Caleb texted and responded to my e-mail.  He promised he'd call at 8:00 pm that night.  When he called, exactly at 8:00, not a minute sooner or later, he sounded wide-awake and shaky.  I cut right to the chase.  Within a few minutes of our conversation I said "So, look.  The only way I would consider this is if you came to Maryland.   For, like, a month.  Or six weeks.  I don't want to do long-distance with you.  And, I mean, this isn't like a formula, or anything, like, I don't want it to be this pressure-timer that beeps and we have to know something, but I think I'll know you a lot better after a month in person.  Enough, I hope, to really trust you.  And even know where my feelings and desires are. And where yours are.  It's okay if it doesn't work.  Not that I don't want it to.  I mean, you know what I mean?  This will go a long way for me trust-wise.  And I'm not comfortable being... your... girlfriend unless I know you're coming and we can try this in real-life.  Being on the phone and together once a month on weekends isn't real life.  It's too hard.  And we aren't in love. And. That's it.  That's what I have to say."

Caleb is never one to jump quickly into a sentence.  He thinks long and hard before he speaks (sometimes too long and too hard.)  But he surprised me when he almost interrupted me.  "Kristen.  I'm coming.  I was already thinking that before you said anything.  I'll come.  As soon as possible.  I'll figure it out.  You're totally right - this will help prove to you how serious I am.  I hope it will help you trust me.  I'll work at McDonald's if I have to, and live in a hotel if that's what it takes.  I'm coming."

My eyes filled with warm, singing tears.  Who was this guy?  Hulll.OOH.  I couldn't believe what God had done.  "Does this mean you'll go out with me?"  This time I was the one who was slow to speak.  Not because I was unsure, but because I was so overwhelmed.  "Yes.  It does.  That is what this means."  We talked for another three hours.  I dreamily wandered inside, fully unaware that my evening outside had given me almost 100 bug bites.  Caleb stormed outside, and ran circles around the yard, screaming and jumping and fist-pumping. 

Ladies and gentleman, let the games begin.  Caleb Morris and Kristen Leigh were a couple.  Finally.  

(to be continued...) 


24.9.12

Oklahoma Wedding Reception | Mr. + Mrs. Morris

"they never understand why their princess falls
for some camouflage britches 
and a southern boy drawl."
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Our wedding was all kinds of dreamy, joyful and dear to our beating Morris hearts.  The *only* thing that seemed a sad touch of strange was that, aside from family and his new Maryland friends, Caleb really didn't have his "own" guests at the wedding.  The sweet church ladies who talk about his piano skills every time they see him (while pinching his cheek, or placing their hand on his.)  The Laura Ingalls Wilder children.  The families who are in the photo albums and home videos.  The first employers.  The next-door neighbors.  Dozens of friendly faces and lives were absent at our wedding.  In some ways it felt like "my" wedding without all of those "Caleb-people" there.  

On Saturday we were the bride and groom, for the very last time.  And this time, it was all about Caleb.  His hostess-with-the-mostess, creative bumblebee of a mother threw a "Cinderella pumpkin patch/Flea Market/Western" event of a lifetime on the family farm, Caleb's childhood stomping grounds.  I wore his favorite gold hoops and wore my hair down (he doesn't like pins and clips and bands.  Kind of like how most guys don't like lipstick.  Only gets in the way ;).  I told him to wear whatever he wanted: a tie-less suit with sneakers it was!  

We spent 4:00 pm to nearly midnight eating Mrs. Morris' BBQ, talking in the sunset, dancing, hearing stories from "way back when," and savoring all the sweetness of farm life and country friends.  My parents flew in to be here with us - which was so special to me.  I loved watching everyone 'ooo' and 'awww' over my mom, and laugh and tease with my dad.  I was madly happy.  Caleb comes from a little taste of heaven, and I'm honored to now be a part of this world.  

Enjoy the incredible detail and love put into this day!
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Tulip bulb favors!
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My favorite piece of advice was from a 15-year-old girl: "Take Kristen shopping every day."  That's the secret to a happy marriage, right?!
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There were little babies to couples who had celebrated their 50th wedding.  Friends from literally right next store, to friends who drove 12 hours to be with us.  We love all you folks - but mostly the kids.  They're so dang funny!  But my favorite quote of the night was from a lady who remembered one of her first conversations with the Morris boys, about seven or eight years ago:  "Well, Caleb told me he wanted to marry a city girl.  And Daniel, Daniel insisted he wanted a country girl."  I love how different Caleb is from his family, and how he really did want everything that I am... even way back then ;)  In the meantime, Daniel is waiting for that "country girl."  Unless I somehow convince him that city girls make for better wives!
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These "Magic Cookie Bars" are famous. Photobucket
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Alright.  This man right here is Matt.  Matt is a good friend of the family, and he  was one of Caleb's first employers.  We love Matt (even though this was my first time meeting him) because he helped Caleb be the worker and skilled-tradesman he is today!  When Matt got married, Caleb and his brothers decided to pull a little prank on Matt.  As he was running to the getaway car, the boys dumped baked beans, honey and snow down Matt's pants.  Matt drove away and apparently had to try to clean up a little in 10 degree weather out by a barn.  Terrible.  Matt's wife walked right into the reception and said "Caleb Morris, there is a verse in the Bible that talks about 'an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.'  Consider yourself warned!" Photobucket
As the main part of the reception was winding down, Matt got his rightful revenge ;)  My only instructions were "Make sure his phone and wallet is not on him.  Please take his shoes off: they are brand new and he loves them with his whole heart.  And don't you dare ruin his $400 suit."  And with that, the fun began:
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(Shoes coming off.  Thank you, guys!)
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So happy... even when being attacked.
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At this point, he still did not know what was going to happen to him...
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... but then he say the water and started SCREAMING "NOOOO! NOOOOO!"  It was kind of heart-breaking!  But then I thought about honey-snow-freezing-beans pants on a wedding night, and I didn't feel too bad for Caleb ;)  The ice bath was frozen and ready:
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When he got out he said he was so cold he couldn't even breathe.  His body went into a quick shock.  It's a good thing he's so healthy and that they DIDN'T CAUSE A HEART ATTACK! Heart Attack > Beans Pants.
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We had a good laugh, made a chilly memory and learned a lesson... right, Honey Bunches of Oats? Riiiight?
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Two of Caleb's siblings built this play house years ago.  It's one of my favorite things I've ever seen. Photobucket
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"The House That Built Me" is a song that can bring both Caleb and I to tears.  Partly because we have half a home built in Oklahoma, that we dream of living in with children someday.  Also in part because Caleb's home really is the house that built us.  I met him here (almost two years ago exactly!).  I discovered he liked me here.  I fell in love with him here.  He lights up when he tells stories about these 27 acres, and always-being-built home.  Now we've celebrated our marriage here.  


Up those stairs in that little back bedroom
Is where I did my homework and I learned to play guitarAnd I bet you didn't know under that live oakMy favorite dog is buried in the yard

Plans were drawn, and concrete poured
Nail by nail, and board by board
Daddy gave life to mama's dreams

Out here it's like I'm someone else
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To all the men, women, children, neighbors, and friends who built Caleb, thank you.  To Oklahoma, red dirt, big pastures, energetic small towns, and lots of barbeque, thank you.  To our future life, children, dreams and passions, thank you.  You've all built us, and we wouldn't be the same if it weren't for you.  God knew what he was doing when He made us a part of a small town outside of Guthrie, Oklahoma.

Happy "You" Reception, Cowboy.  I love every part of your life.  And I can't wait to spend our days loving it even more. Muah!