Four years.

Four years ago at this moment, the closest people in my life were in a cozy room together at Maggiano's, stuffing ourselves with mushroom ravioli and Nonna's Pound Cake. And celebrating...celebrating the fact that two people can be picked out for each other in this crazy world where it seems to be a one-in-a-million chance.

And today, I am here in our cozy little home, so thankful for the last four years of life, of growth, of love. And boy, do I have a story for you from this past week, the week before our anniversary...

Wednesday night is date night around here, a tradition we began when we first got married and vowed to keep no matter what. So this Wednesday, he took me out to dinner to an Asian tapas restaurant, Nandina. Then, when we pulled up in front of our house after dinner, he told me I had to wait in the car because he had a surprise...

"What? What kinda surprise?" I asked as I clasped my hands together like a 4 year old.

"Just wait here. I'll come out and get you..." he said.

So I sat in the car and waited. And waited and waited. For 10 whole minutes. I looked out the window. Checked out the house next door that is being remodeled. Noticed how dirty our dashboard is, picked up wadded up pieces of paper from the floorboards. Wow, we really need to clean the car...

Until he finally came out and got me, walked me to the front door, and put a sleep mask on my face as a makeshift blindfold. He opened the front door and grabbed my hands, facing me, and walked himself backwards through the house as he led me to my destination. Frank Sinatra was playing in the background, and I could smell tons of candles burning. Through the livingroom, into the hallway, down the hall, turn right...and we landed in the guest room.

He sat me in a chair and took some photos of me. What on earth is he doing?

And then, he read a letter he had written for me. It was beautiful. It was obviously very personal, but this line, I just had to share...

"Tonight I want you to know how creative and lovely your life is. That you bring the silly, fun, and warmth into our home that so many have enjoyed. Christine, I never want you to be anything that Jesus doesn't want you to be. And I hope He can inspire you..."

When the letter was finished, he removed the blindfold, and I could hardly believe my eyes....there it was...the painting that I fell in love with over 2 months ago!!!!!

"He Drew Me Out Of Mighty Waters" by an artist named Carolyn Rekerdres.

I was literally speechless. For ten whole seconds, I just sat there with my mouth wide open, shocked, with tears in my eyes.

It was "my" painting! The one that inspired me so much, the one that spoke to me of summer days and freedom. And then I realized the room was aglow with about one hundred candles...which explains why I waited so long in the car!

Next, I stammered, "How...wait...what? How did you do this? Where did you get this?" I knew that the original painting the artist made was 7 ft. x7 ft. - huge, like the size of an entire wall. In my mind, it was just fantasy, really. Then he told me how he took all the money he had been putting aside to buy a Compost Tumbler and scrounged around for as much extra he could find and offered it to Carolyn, the artist, hoping she would take it and paint me a copy of my very own, in my own size. She graciously agreed!

Steven said he had picked it up at her studio that morning. And then while we were at dinner, our friends The Fletchers had sneakily come over and hung it for us above the bed!

And the most inspiring thing is what this painting symbolizes to me. Its title, "He Drew Me Out of Mighty Waters," comes from the Psalms. And one of the greatest challenges I've been working through recently is finding my own voice. I love to blog because it's a place for me - on my own - to speak, and to share. But written communication comes easily for me. Verbal communication, not so much. I have a great fear of being bold verbally, of speaking out. And I've seen a million ways lately how my God wants to draw me out of that fear into a place of courage.

Even in the painting, you can't see her face. Her body is submerged still, just reaching the surface, but her face, her voice, has already surfaced.

It's a daily reminder...

"He reached down from heaven and rescued me;
he drew me out of deep waters."

~ Psalm 18: 16

I am thankful to be married to a man who loves me, encourages me, and infuses my life with hope and goodness. He challenges me in the many ways I'm weak. Oh, but it's a very good thing.

Any struggle we could face is like a dandelion in the wind measured up against this kind of love.

The man responsible for it all...