Tuesday, February 16, 2016

love story -- part 3 (the finale)

This is supposed to be the Valentine's edition, but I was too busy soaking up my valentines this weekend I never got to post this....

Here we go.

I remember sitting in the back seat of our family car on a long road trip when my Dad launched into the story of how he and my mom fell in love and got engaged.

I have no further details on that story because it didn't happen just once.  That scenario happened over and over and over again in different cars, on different trips, focusing on different parts.  We knew it all...how he tricked my mom into going on their first date.  How she went home and bawled to her roommates because she had found the "right one" way too early (in her opinion).  How he almost dropped the engagement ring from the window of the Aggie tower at Utah State when he was proposing.  We could recite back every detail.

And I'm so grateful.

Even though I'm sure I rolled my eyes when that sentimental dad of mine launched into that story again, I'm so glad he thought it was important enough to share.  A lot of times ;)  It made me feel so much love for those parents of mine, and somehow made me feel so secure knowing they thought that love story was important enough to engrave into our minds.

Since Valentine's Day is this weekend (correction: was this last weekend...I had intentions of posting this before but didn't) I figured it would be the perfect time to finish off the "love story" about Dave and I that I started clear back HERE, and told "part 2" clear back HERE.  I just noticed that in the comments someone said "I sure hope you don't wait until 2016 to tell us the rest."  

And yes, here we are in 2016.  

But this time I'm really finishing it.  

I think it's so important to tell and re-tell love stories. Not only do I want so much to remember all the details, but I want my kids to know them too.  And their kids.

And theirs.

Because love stories are what makes up the fabric of our families.  And they make you fall in love all over again when you remember.

So let's go back to the last line of "part 2" to connect these puppies:

One day I got a call from my parents announcing that a special envelope had arrived back home (the envelope which held my mission call).  My friends and I drove the hour home to open it up and see where I’d be spending the next 18 months.  

A different sort of butterflies twisted around in my heart. 

But there it was, written all official from the church headquarters in black and white that I could scarcely read since my hands were shaking so hard:  “You are called to the Budapest, Hungary mission...to serve in Romania.” 

(I've posted this before, but let's put it here too because it was pretty dang exciting)

I finished finals and moved home.  I packed and hung out as much as possible with that boy from BYU.

I think this is the only picture I have of us at BYU before my mission:
Luckily it's a beauty.


He went home to the desert for Christmas but came back early to see me off. 

He was there at my farewell with Tom (the one who told me he had a crush on me in the very beginning).
(I know, another wonderful picture...)

The night before I left for the MTC he came over.  He hung out quietly in the background as a flurry of friends came in and out.  The power went out and I remember looking over at him across the candlelight wondering how things would change over the next 18 months. 

He was the last one there.

I walked him out to the porch.  The light of the porch reflected gorgeous huge flakes of snow flitting quietly around us, in no hurry to reach the ground.  I had been “set apart” earlier that evening (given a special blessing to begin my mission).  After you’re set apart you really have no business kissing or hugging boys you think you might love when your mind is supposed to be on the mission.  We said our goodbyes and shook hands.  He gave me a smile and he was gone.

I came back in the house and laughed to find my family’s faces fresh from being pressed up against the window spying on how we would manage our goodbyes.

As I look back I find it interesting how calm and peaceful I felt. 

Sure, I was nervous.  I was going to live in a foreign country for a year and a half with little connection to my old world.  I was a total home-body.  I adored my family and friends.  And I really liked that one particular boy who may be married and gone when I got home. 

But instead of dread and worry, I was nervously elated. 

I was heading to Romania to share something more precious than gold: the gospel of Jesus Christ, and to have the adventure of a lifetime.

And I knew that was exactly what Heavenly Father wanted me to do.

I sure hoped that boy would write to me every once in a while though.

And also that he would date a lot.  Because I sure didn’t want him sitting around twiddling his thumbs.  Or deep in my heart maybe I did?  Maybe I could just tell he was one that needed a lot of dating before settling down.  For whatever reason I was happy for us both.


Back in the “old days” you went to the MTC (Missionary Training Center) for two months to learn your language before you left on your mission.  (Well, you still do in the "new days"...Max is there for nine weeks.)

I became immersed quickly with conjugating Romanian verbs and delving into the Book of Mormon like never before. 

At first I looked forward with eagerness to Dave’s letters.  I thirsted for him to give me good mission advice.  He had served his mission for two years in Taiwan not long before. 

Now, I am the first to admit I get grand visions in my head sometimes.  Sometimes I get myself into trouble because I envision butterflies and rainbows when really there is just normalcy stretching out ahead.  But I thought surely this boyfriend of mine would send encouragement and all kinds of spiritual enlightenment. 

But instead his letters were filled with what happened here or there and some sweet sentiments at the end.  No scriptures quoted.  No mission experiences or epiphanies he had had when he was in my boat recounted.  Of course it wasn’t that poor boy’s fault he couldn’t see into my brain and know what I wanted.  But with each letter that came I became more disenchanted and more focused on the mission that lay ahead of me on the horizon.  I wanted to give it my heart.  And his letters gave me no reason to spare a portion of it for him.

So I wrote to him and told him I wanted to concentrate on what I was doing and basically we were going "different directions."  He jokes about that a lot these days.  If I was going the "mission" direction, where was he going?  Ha!

He was surprised by my letter and wrote back hoping we could at least write every now and again.  Which we did.  But oh boy I'm so glad that we made that break and could both grow so much in such parallel ways those next eighteen months.

Dave dated...a lot.  And I got fully immersed in the Romanian culture which I fell completely in love with.

Every now and again I got a sweet letter from Dave, but my heart was elsewhere.  And although he claims he always had me in the back of his mind, he was dating and having a grand old time.  He dated one particular girl quite seriously while I was gone.

SO much more I could say about Romania...the people I adored there, the culture, my great companions, the myriad of things I learned, but that's a post (or series of posts) for another day.

When I came home and gave my homecoming talk at church I saw Dave.  He was standing in the back all by himself.

I remember thinking it was nice of him to come but there were certainly no heart-flutters.

But that boy stuck around.  He was ultra patient while I went through my ultra-weird post-mission stage.  I took my little sister on our first date with us.  Not much to talk about.  I was weird I tell you.

He waited.

I got home in June.  That summer we had a lot of family time.  We went to NYC to film an infomercial with Kathi Lee Gifford of all people (my family had been on Oprah while my sister and I were on our missions to highlight their new book "Teaching Your Children Values " which had promptly hit the New York Times Best Seller list...so there were random kind of exciting things like a trip to New York City along with all that hoopla).

We spent a lot of time at Bear Lake.

We went to Jackson Hole.

As the summer came to a close I moved in to a little house in Provo with my sisters and a couple friends.

We had fun.

I was thrown back into the dating world which was pretty fun.

Gradually I started hanging out more and more with Dave.

(And apparently I was really into funky southwestern vests.)
I gradually started to put down my guard but I was still pretty skeptical.  

I remember specifically the turning point.  Dave was over visiting me at our little white house.  I was doing something or other, no idea what, but he walked over and sat down with my Romanian Book of Mormon and began to kind of try to decipher what that new language was.

I have no idea what hit me and I don't know why it did right then.  But something came over me.  Something about that little action shifted my perspective and suddenly a little door of my heart opened.  Something that night made me realize if I didn't pursue this guy I'd be missing out.  

Things got a little more serious.  He kissed me at Bridal Veil falls, my first kiss after my mission.

My roommate and I, who were dating he and his roommate, made them quilts for fun.
We went on a few road trips.

My family went to Jackson Hole again to snowmobile that winter.

Dave came along.
...and won the hearts of my family.  Even after he took a huge jump with me on the back of the snowmobile and I came down and crunched my back.
I was fine but it sure made that trip memorable.

We got more and more serious.  My journal from that time is filled with all kinds of things I loved about him.  Then all kinds of worries.  Then all kinds of lavish praises again.  Then worries again.

I had a list in my mind of what I wanted in a husband and there were still a few pieces not matching up.

My roommate knew my concerns and one day came up with the perfect guy to line me up with.  On paper, he had everything on my "list."  So we got lined up and I was excited.

As the date progressed I had a little epiphany:  my "list" wasn't what I needed.  Sure, this guy had it all together.  He knew exactly where he was going in life.  He was smart as a whip and was applying to all kinds of graduate schools.  He was polished and polite.

But he wasn't funny.  He wasn't sweet.  We had little to talk about.

I know, I had just met him.  To be fair, I'm sure he was a really cool guy.  One date certainly doesn't tell you the real deal about someone.  But something inside me changed and that little snippet of a date helped me realize I was looking for the wrong things.

And that Dave had the right ones.

He made me laugh.  He wanted adventure.  He knew me like no one ever had before.  And I was head-over-heels in love with him.

The decision to get married.  Now that is a big one.

But we were there at the decision point.  We both fasted and prayed.  We went to the temple.

I'll spare all the details, lots of deep talks and sorting things out and more deep discussions.  But I'll skip to where we sat, cross-legged on the soft forrest-green carpet in my apartment and started talking for reals about marriage.

Dave said, "I want to marry you."  And I said it back.  And we talked about life plans and goals and dreams and how we fit into each other's.

And it was magical.

We weren't officially engaged, but we both knew that's exactly what we wanted.  And it all felt pretty spectacular.

Within a few weeks Dave took me on a date up into the mountains of Sundance above Provo.  We had lunch in the lodge and headed out on a little hike to Stuart Falls.  Dave was acting a little strange and I knew something had to be up but I was so excited to be engaged at some point I don't know that I dared hope this was the proposal.

But sure enough, about half way up he stopped, totally shaking and said, "Shawni, we have to remember this moment forever.  I have a question for you...will you marry me?" and he pulled out a diamond ring and slipped it on my finger.

I told him yes and we hugged and hugged and kissed a little too (;)) and smiled and shivered in the cool spring sun.

And just like that, we were engaged.

It was March 8th, 1995.  
We were pretty excited.

We were engaged for three and a half months.

We had a few adventures.

Got to talk to some pretty amazing people to get marriage advice (Elder Maxwell was one of them, the picture below is from that day...such great advice that we named our first baby Maxwell).

Being the first to get married in my family, my parents went a little overboard on the engagement photos...

Yowzas we still have stacks of those.

And then on a gorgeous summer day on June 23, 1995, we tied the knot.

And went on our honeymoon to the Virgin Islands (we got free tickets when we were bumped off a flight coming to the desert to plan wedding open house things a couple months before and were pretty dang excited about that!)  

Here we are post honeymoon and post beach-braids:
And that, my friends, is the story of I landed this guy:

Oh boy, was I ever in love with that boy back then on our wedding day.

But little could I know way back then how much love could grow.  Through adventures and adversity and door-slamming and adoring and elation and humbling how much a marriage could grow and change and progress and shift and heave and settle over the years.

Every year that passes by I become even more grateful for this love story which was the seed of so much beauty and wonder (right alongside heartache and headaches and misunderstandings and long talks to figure it all out).

I'm so grateful for the good parts and the not-so-great ones that have helped us grow and learn so much over the years.

I am the luckiest girl alive to call him my Valentine.

Thanks for being my number one through the thick and the thin.

Love you forever, David Stuart.


  1. It is soooooo amazing how you guys could pass for Max and Elle!! The eyes and smiles are so similar. Really great stuff!!

  2. This was the most adorable thing ever <3

    Chaun from www.hiccupsandpastries.com

  3. Those younger pictures of Dave sure do look like Max. I'm glad you came around he seems like a great guy!

  4. Can I ask what the advice Elder Maxwell gave you was? I am always looking for great marriage advice to always improve our marriage. And can I just say I love your family. I hope and strive to live a life like yours, faithfully, full of family and love and adventure and service and all of that good stuff:)

  5. Hi Shawni,
    Thank you for sharing the last part with us, it's lovely.

    I'm curious, do most people in the US go on group dates when they're going out with someone? For me I wouldn't be able to do that. I'm a very private & reserved (shy) person & there's no way I could go on a group date with anyone.

    Charity looks so cute in those pix. I remember her on Oprah saying, "I'm Charity, I'm 6 & I'm out of school today.":)

    1. Adults in the US mostly go on one and one dates. But kids may go out in groups of friends and with their significant other for some practical reasons like transportation. A group of 8 friends may want to go to the movies and two can get the family car. There may be 2 couples and 4 others going along. 8 people btw 2 cars. Depending on the school and the financial state of the family some college students have cars some don't or can't keep them on campus freshman year. So some dates may be with friends. You don't drop friends just cause you have a boyfriend. So sometimes you are alone and sometimes you are in a group.

  6. Grace looks just like you. And max just like his father.

  7. I wish I could hear the advice elder maxwell gave! What an awesome opportunity!

  8. I didn't realize who Maxwell was named after. My little guy is named after him as well. What an INCREDIBLE experience that must have been to receive marital advice from him one-on-one!!!
    Beautiful story! And, like others have said, Max looks sooooo much like Dave!
    I love the love stories that don't just "happen", but the ones where you really have to dig deep, search and mull things over.

  9. Wow! There are things here that bring back so many memories and also so many things that I either forgot or never knew! Thanks for sharing and thanks for being open to the spirit in order to get that smart, handsome, creative, deep thinking, deeply committed guy! He is so perfect for you and that fabulous family!

  10. Thank you so much for sharing your story. It makes me want to document my husband and mine story for our children. It's amazing how things just work out in the end, right?! I also can't believe how much you guys look like Max and Elle! I love reading your blog. It helps me have perspective and I enjoy reading the lessons you have learned. You inspire me to be a better mother, wife, daughter, sister and friend. Thank you!

  11. I don't know what it is that we all love to read about other people's lives and especially about their love stories (even more if they have a happy ending like yours!). I think I've said it before but I love your blog and I can't remember how I got here and how many years I've been following (though not always commenting). I think I learn a lot from your life and your thoughts, I like your perspective on some things :) I just wanted to say that, it's not anything especial (coming from a stranger!) but this a blog/place I enjoy very much.

  12. Lovely story. There is a great picture of your son at the MTC on the Missionary Mommas FB page, if you are interested. Don't know if you are a member of that FB group, but I saw the picture and recognized your son from your blog posts.

  13. If you aren't in the MM FB group, just email me and i will attach the picture in a return email. :-)

  14. Enjoyed reading your love story. I was in the MTC at the same time as you. But only for three weeks as I was heading to Ireland.

    Love reading your blog!

  15. Shawni: This was epically beautiful! What a wonderful compilation of your thoughts, feelings, misgivings, hopes, awakenings, etc. You wrote in such a way that I could imagine all those feelings and thoughts washing through me about my sweet husband too! What a wonderful gift to your children!

  16. you make me want to write my husbands and mine love story! and that is so crazy elder maxwell gave you advice, he is my husbands grandpa. we named one of our sons (neal) after him. oh how we miss him and love talking with him. i love reading your blog!

  17. You guys are such a gorgeous couple. May you have many, many more years together. I love reading about your family and your adventures together. Thank you for sharing.

  18. Wow! You guys look exactly like Grace and Max!


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