Peyton and I met when I was fifteen years old- it was ten years ago this summer. He was eighteen. I don't even remember that much about him from that first summer. I had my first job (outside of babysitting and working at summer camp) working at Briarwood Swimming Pool, here in Jackson. I was a substitute concession stand worker (the "lowest" job there) and I probably worked less than ten times that summer. Peyton was a lifeguard and honestly, I don't have any clear memories of him. I know I met him and interacted with him on a couple of occasions, but I don't have any specific memories. At that point, I had a boyfriend, but he was gone all summer. Plus, I was going into ninth grade and at Prep that is still considered junior high and Peyton was getting ready for his freshman year of college. He was REALLY not a prospect at that point.
Fast forward to the next summer. I was sixteen, had been cheated on and dumped by my boyfriend (whom I still consider my "first love"), and had a new boyfriend. The new boyfriend was also away for the summer and I was now a full time concession stand worker.
I developed a huge crush on one of the lifeguards at the pool (NOT Peyton) and was trying to decide if I should break up with my boyfriend, who I had never had a real connection with anyway. [He was really fun and we had a blast spending time together, but he was more of a best friend than anything else.] The lifeguard I liked kind of went back and forth over weather or not he liked me, and by the end of summer nothing had come of it. During this time, Peyton was at the pool, too, in the background.
He was your "good time guy" and was always making jokes and splashing around being goofy. As that summer drew to a close, my boyfriend got back home and we broke up for a variety of reasons. I spent the next year of high school becoming more and more infatuated with the lifeguard I had developed a crush on, who happened to be a senior at Prep.
The next summer, the summer following my tenth grade year, I finally started dating the boy that I had liked for over a year. It was a fun summer, but even early on that relationship required a great deal of work. It was the first "grown up" relationship I'd ever had (Peyton is the only other one) and it was difficult to say the least. He and I were both carrying around big bags of crazy--he had anxiety equal to mine and thus, we really didn't compliment each other. One or both of us were basically always creating drama. If there wasn't anything to worry about, we'd analyze our relationship to the point that we made something up. It was just not healthy.
Peyton was friends with this fellow, so we became casual friends, as well. He was such a sweet, friendly person and was always so fun and good-natured. Of all the head guards, he was the laid back boss. He did a wonderful impression of Tony the Tiger from the Frosted Flakes commercials and I loved to hear him go "grrrrrreat!" and see his arm shoot up like Tony's. My mom had seen him at the pool and told me that he had the biggest smile and was so playful and easy going (so different from the way my old boyfriend and I made each other--I know I was partially responsible for that), she told me how cute he was. I totally disagreed "he's not my type", "I'm totally not attracted to him", "he's so OLD and sort of dorky". Besides, being in a relationship with someone like that would be too easy.
I dated the other boy throughout my junior year of high school. I knew the relationship wasn't the best thing for me, but I adored him. I seriously thought this guy had hung the moon. I thought he was perfect. I hung on his every word. It was really an unhealthy infatuation. He didn't treat me bad, but I let myself be in a place that was not good for me at all. We broke up twice and when we broke up for good I was distraught. I remember telling my mom I wished I was dead. I know....really intense. But teenage angst always is, right? I had watched enough Dawson's Creek to know that my feelings were perfectly normal. Um, yeah.
The summer after we broke up (the summer before my senior year of high school), was SO hard. I was now a full time lifeguard at Briarwood and trying to work with my ex boyfriend who I was still so in love with was really hard. It didn't help that we both kept analyzing things and going back and forth about if it had been the right thing to do to break up. At one point I just came in from the lifeguard stand, starting crying hysterically, and had to call a sub and go home (I know, redic, right?).
Well, one night, some of my girlfriends decided I needed a little cheering up and so they took me to a Better Than Ezra concert at Hal and Mal's. Guess who was there? Briarwood's other head lifeguard......
[This picture was taken that night, the VERY first time Peyton and I (coincidentally) hung out outside of work--over 5 years ago! I'm so glad I have this; I treasure it so much.]
We talked and he hugged on me and we swayed back and forth to the music all night long.
After that night, Peyton and I grew closer and closer and began doing things outside of work. I would call Peyton at all hours of the night just to cry about this guy who broke my heart. And he was such a good listener. I was still mourning my previous relationship and he was SO hung up on another girl. Even though we laid under the stars in my parents backyard (sometimes getting a little closer than most "friends" would) and told each other our deepest hurts and most cherished dreams, we told everyone (and each other) that there was "nothing there". We were always very affectionate; I distinctly remember Peyton holding me in his arms as I sobbed about this other boy. At the time I didn't think "This is the type of man you need. Someone so solid. Someone who will be your rock.", but that was so true. And in time, I realized it.
Because over the course of my senior year in high school (Peyton's senior year at Ole Miss) we became so much more than best friends and confidants. We started to fall in love. He was everything I could have hoped for. Everything I ever needed. But....
there was so much to iron out. When we kissed for the first time, I cried for several reasons. The first thing I said was "Now, I've really messed up my chances with (old boyfriend)" and I sobbed because I also felt like I jeopardized one of the most important friendships I had ever had. Most importantly, Peyton wasn't a Christian. He was searching so hard, but that wasn't enough for me to feel okay about what had happened. I had been praying for him (earlier in the year, I had actually prayed really hard that something would "work out" when he took out a girl who was the chaplain of her sorority), but I started praying even harder.
I remember reading Romans 8:28 the night we kissed ("For we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him") and claiming it that night. I was so unsure how God was going to work now that I had just destroyed my chances at reuniting with my ex, ruined a very valuable friendship, and probably really hurt my witness. I kind of get teary thinking about what a great God we serve......if anybody had told me, amidst my sobs that night, that THIS MAN would be my husband, that he would be to the most amazing father to our daughter, that he would find Christ and his faith would grow to become an inspiration to me.....I would have laughed out loud, just like another Sarah did when God promised her her son.
Not long after we started dating, I said a horrible thing to Peyton. I told him I didn't know if I would ever be able to love him the way I loved my old boyfriend. And, there in the pool house, he wrapped his arms around me and just let me cry. I'm so thankful he didn't just run away at that point.
Of course, I grew to love him so much MORE than I've ever loved anyone. But those early days were hard days. I'm so thankful he stood by me. And I do not ever regret that other relationship. It taught me so much. I'm so so thankful, though, that God had a better plan for me than I had for myself.
We dated for for the three years I was in school at Mississippi College, which were his last two years of pharmacy school (the program is six years) and his first year working and we got to know each other even better. I saw him once on the weekends and usually once during the middle of the week and I adored seeing him and growing closer to him. Peyton had a REALLY hard time with commitment, though, and it took a couple of "breaks" for him to decide I was the right one for him (I knew all along he was the one for me!). The fall of my Senior year in college, he proposed. I was shocked and started shaking and kept asking "Oh my gosh, Sweetie, is this really it? Sweetie? Sweetie?" Haha! He finally told me I needed to give him an answer. Of course I told him yes!
I knew that he was afraid of commitment and until the moment we said our vows there was a tiny fear in me that he'd back out. That fear is 100% gone now. The good thing about Peyton taking his sweet time is that the reason he did it is because he is SO committed to keeping those vows. Obviously, I am, too, but I say in all honesty that I have NEVER known anyone who truly believed the words "to death do us part" the way Peyton does. He takes them so seriously.
We got married the following June and it was one of the best days of my life. We were so excited to be starting out our new life together. Peyton already had a house that I was eagerly anticipating fixing up and I was beyond excited about my first teaching job. Things felt so perfect.
People tell you all the time that there is a *huge* demand for good teachers. There is a demand for good teachers. There is a huge demand for good teachers in impoverished areas where 80% of the kids are on free and reduced lunch. I'll be honest, I was scared and I did not feel confident enough to teach those children my FIRST year. I did apply at some of the "better" public schools, but I was too nervous to do anything above second grade and there were some schools I just wouldn't apply to period. When I couldn't really find a job at a public school, I decided, per the recommendation of a friend, to apply at a small Catholic school in Jackson. It was also in the "inner city", but it was small so my classes would be small. Also, the parents were paying to send their kids there, so I knew I could expect more parental support than what I had seen during my field experience in some area public schools.
I GOT THE JOB. I was so excited. I was going to be able work with kids who really needed my help, but I'd be in a situation that was reasonably within my comfort level. I was also excited about the prospect of being able to minister to these kids and their families- I could actually (and was encouraged to) talk about Christ. I was going to be working with one of my best friends and I knew she'd help me along the way. It felt so good to know someone at the school where I'd be teaching.
I was assigned first grade. I knew the all important task of teaching these children to read fell on me. I felt apprehensive, but I knew I had the training to do that task. I got to work setting up my classroom and started writing parent letters and brainstorming about the first day of school. I bought out half of School Aids in my excitement and made some other things like bulletin boards and behavior charts. I went to registration and to an ice cream party to welcome new students. On the Thursday before school was to start on Monday, Peyton and I spent the better part of the day finishing up with decorating my classroom. I was so, so proud of it.
Late that afternoon I got a phone call from the principle of the school. They didn't get the enrollment they needed....funds were short.....I was the last one hired.
I was devastated when I found out I didn't have the job after all. I had invested so much. Money. Time. Energy. My emotions.
But the Lord had a better plan for me.
I call her Ann Peyton.
That sweet girl was a TOTAL surprise. I think we were married for about a month and had had sex *maybe* six times. HONEYMOON BABY! I’ll be straight with you. I was terrified. I flipped out. I have always wanted babies more than anything. I love children. My sister talked about babies at our rehearsal dinner. Our pastor joked about it during the ceremony. We named Ann Peyton, literally, years ago. It has always been my ultimate calling.
BUT, we were still adjusting to married life, which was not, truthfully, a walk in the park. I mean we were very much in love, but it was an adjustment. I had just lost my job and my grandmother (who I was incredibly close to). I was searching for a new job and trying to be a really good wife. I felt like a train wreck and I wasn’t sure how I was going to do this. Through this "surprise", I saw God work in my life this year in ways I could never IMAGINE. Romans 8:28 became all the more real to me this year. I lost my job for a REASON--I could not have been a first year teacher and been as tired as I was during my pregnancy. We were having a baby for a REASON--Ann Peyton is such a blessing and she came at just the right time!
My mom had several miscarriages before me, and I do remember thinking "maybe that will happen to us". I am horrified that that thought even crossed my mind, but that is how desperate I was at that point. Of course, Annie is the best thing that has EVER happened to me (in addition to Peyton and my relationship with the Lord). I got very attached to her really fast while I was pregnant, and I couldn’t believe I actually thought that. I felt so guilty about it and it really ate me up. I couldn’t imagine loosing her. I just had to forgive myself (I know God already forgave me) and move on.
Ann Peyton was a child who we felt terribly unprepared for. She was a child who we felt wholly inadequate to raise. She was a child who, in the early days of my pregnancy, was ::shutter:: entirely unwanted. And yet.
She is our greatest joy (save the Lord). The most beautiful thing in the world. A constant source of delight and a another reason to cherish each day.
Peyton said these beautiful words to me after she was born--"Sweetie, we will never again view a baby that way. We will know that any baby is a miracle. Even if we ever have another surprise."
And it's true. I always knew I wanted to be a mother more than anything, but I really thought this was the wrong time for that. Peyton and I had such a wrong view of having a child, of being parents. We had a very worldly view. A selfish view. A view that said a baby was an inconvenience, a burden, an obstacle in our path, a hindrance to our happiness.
I can say that I have never been more wrong about anything in my life. Her little life has given us more happiness than we knew we were capable of. Our path, we now realize, was divinely guided and planned better than anything we could have imagined for ourselves. If I have had burdens in my life, she has never been one of them. And any inconveniences that she has created in our lives have been canceled a thousand times by the blessings she has brought to us. She came at the perfect time.
And when her baby brother arrived last April, I knew that he came at the perfect time, too.
These are the most beautiful days of my life. Thank you for sharing them with me.