Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Our Story

This is Payton and I's story, we both tag teamed on it to give you multiple perspectives, so sit back grab some popcorn and enjoy the ride :)

[Payton] You meet a lot of different people in life; a good portion of these daily encounters are minuscule and don't amount to much in the grand scheme of things. But sometimes there is a bigger picture you don't see, a red herring to save for later in life. The summer of 2007 was an exciting time in my life for many reasons, chief of which was the opportunity God laid before me to work with my brother Dustin in youth ministry. But in no way could I have foreseen what else was in store for me.

(Melissa) First off, I would like to mention a few of the little random tidbits. The year before I met Payton (2006) I went on a Spring Break Campaign (Mission Trip) with ACU to Boulder, CO where I served with Boulder Valley Church of Christ and met Sam Bartee, one of Payton's younger sisters. During the summer of 2006 I worked ACU leadership camps where low and behold there was Sam and the BVCoC youth group again. Then finally the summer of 2007, I take an internship that I am not fully sure about but I definitely felt God's pull to have me where I was about to go, little did I know the implications that would come from this choice.

(P) I first met Melissa at a Starbucks in Spring, TX. We were both youth interns at our respective churches and were meeting to plan an upcoming junior high camp in San Antonio. I remember thinking she was cute and insightful, but honestly as a guy you never read too much into these things. We were both professionals, after all! When we finally got to the Harold E. Butts camp for the week, we went about our duties and had a very fun week. But from seeing her playfulness at the midnight counselor volleyball games to seeing her heart as she lead a campfire devo, there was something about this gal.

(M) I remember when I first met Payton at the Starbucks. In all reality I was not quite sure what to expect with planning H.E.B camp or the group of people I would meet. Then I met Payton and his brother, when I found out they were Sam's brothers I was really excited because I remember Sam and I getting along really well at camp. The week of H.E.B. camp was one of the best experiences of the summer for me. I remember having really great conversations with Payton about faith, God, and so forth. There was a night when we were playing a midnight game of volleyball, he was on my team. I remember he was standing next to me as we were playing and he blurted out "So would you want to go see a movie or something sometime?" I vaguely remember not knowing if he was being serious or not at the time. When he laughed it off, I thought he might be joking. At the time he was not on my radar of someone I would date; after all I had two more years at ACU. But little did I know that question on the volleyball courts was a foreshadowing of sorts.

(P) After crashing and burning on the volleyball courts, we can pretty much fast-forward two years. Melissa successfully graduated college, while I kept inching closer to that elusive degree. God opened a door for me to be near my brother, his wife Carly, and their precious kids with a ministry job in Sugar Land. Doing school and ministry definitely adds up to a full plate, but it's very fulfilling to always feel so busy and blessed. Residing in Houston has been an interesting education on life, myself, and ministry.

(M) Fast-forward to the summer of 2009. Over the two years before then, I had many experiences that forever changed me, including a month I spent in Haiti the summer of 2008. Then I finally reached a beautiful milestone and graduated from ACU on May 9, 2009, with all the expectations of being anywhere but Abilene or Houston. I looked and applied...looked and applied some more. The newly fallen economy did not help my dream of being some place new and exciting to start a new life, or become an exciting career woman. I remember my mom saying in June, "God is doing something in all of this just wait and see." During the month of July after I had an interview for the job of my dreams and I failed to achieve it; I began a month of volunteering with the middle school of Impact Church of Christ. One of the weeks I was volunteering I decided to go to one SYS, it was on July 20th, 2009 at Bammel Church of Christ. When we got to the church, when I walked in one of the very first people I see is none other than Payton Bartee. We talked for about five minutes just catching up on life, I found out he had been going to school and interning in Houston. I remember the last thing I said before our quick catch up was over "Well good to see you, we should get coffee sometime." Soon after that he decided to take me up on that offer!

(P) That whole night gave me a fuzzy feeling. I remember having a very difficult conversation earlier in the day that rocked me to my core; it dominated my thoughts for the rest of the day. That is, until I got to SYS! I love seeing old friends, and returning to Bammel is always a fun experience. I went home that night and got on Facebook, of course looking up my old friend Melissa. I decided to do something unheard of--ask a girl out online! In my defense, it was the only feasible, non-stalker way I had to get in touch with her. I kept it short and sweet, inviting her to an early screening of "500 Days of Summer." She accepted, and we've had 9 wonderful months of being together since.

(M) I loved our first date and knew there was something different about how we were together. We had a chemistry I had never felt before and we connected so naturally. I knew after only 2 or 3 weeks that he was the guy I was going to spend the rest of my life with. We fell in love fast and furious, God being the foundation of our relationship. After a wonderful 9 months full of growth and falling more deeply in love, I knew we were inching to an engagement. The engagement journey began April 8, 2010 with a note that said "After thirty-six your facebook status you must fix" strategically placed on my car during my night class at HBU.

(P) With my devious plan in motion, the biggest task was signaling that the "engagement journey" had started...and stretching it out a few weeks. I get the sense most women would go crazy over something that diabolical, but Melissa kept her patience and had fun with my little game. Over the next few weeks, I wanted her to key in on that number 36, which her analytical mind took to like a duck to water. So, a few days later, I snuck 3 daisies under her car windshield while she was at work. Gotta show those junior-highers what a romantic I am! Starting a pattern, a few days later I assembled a little notebook of my 6 favorite nights of our relationship to go with 6 Swedish tulips waiting for her after a hard day at work. So far, so good for my little game...

(M) After the 6 tulips a few nights later he gave me 9 red lilies and talked about how they represent the 9 different fruit of the Spirit. I was half-way there, 18! The next week...I had to be really patient. The weekend of our 9 month landed on a retreat at his church, I was going on the girl's retreat with the girls in his youth group and he went on the boy's retreat (he is a wonderful intern btw). The Sunday after the retreat he reminded me that we were celebrating our 9 month that next night, which I had completely forgotten about until that moment. Then I was super pumped about getting to dress up and go out with my baby the next day.

(P) If you're confused about the "numbers," there are 36 weeks in 9 months. So considering it was the basis of my whole "36" plan, I had been wanting to propose as close to the 9 month mark as possible. At this point, I had the ring in my possession for a few weeks, I had checked with her parents, told my parents, and just wanted to get that sucker on her finger pronto! I felt really good about what her special night would look like. I've never been an overly flamboyant guy, but I do find personal/meaningful things to be the most romantic. Melissa had truly changed my life, and I wanted that theme of transformation to be evident to her when I asked her to marry me.

(M) The whole night I could tell something was happening but I did not want to get too excited if this wasn't it. After all I was under the premise that this was a night to just celebrate our 9 month. During the car ride his hands were really sweaty and he was quieter than usually, wanting to play it cool. We got to the restaurant called "The Grove" and I remember thinking he was acting as nervous as he did on our first two dates. I was grinning like an idiot because I could just feel it, something was different about tonight. After a delicious meal, he wanted to go on a walk around The Discovery Green which was right next to the restaurant. I remember he was leading me somewhere and started to talk about the fact that one of his favorite things about the Discovery Green was that it used to be just another parking lot that had been transformed into this beautiful grassy area. We kept walking getting closer and closer to where he wanted us to be and continued on by stating "Just like this park I went through a similar transformation, you completely transformed my life." At this point I was getting really emotional and then we reached the dock, which is where my excitement hit Mach 10.

(P) The Discovery Green park in downtown Houston is really a beautiful place, and one of my favorite spots in the city. It's so pure, natural, and inviting...yet it just has a cool look to it. Considering its origin and meaning in the city, I felt it would really illustrate the change Melissa has brought about in my life. Anyway--all throughout dinner I was starting to feel the butterflies. I had recruited some help from a good friend (thanks Scott Key!) and everything was going as planned...it was all just hitting me that tonight was the night. We walked around the park, me buying a few more minutes for the sun to set perfectly. Eventually we got to a long pier that extends perfectly out into the middle of the park's pond, offering a beautiful look at downtown.

(M) There laid out before me were roses each one on top of a picture all leading up to the end of the dock. As we walked, he told me to start counting, I was kind of in shock at this point but began to count expectedly. Each rose beautifully placed on top of a picture encapsulating a memory of our past 9 months together. We reached the end and there were three battery operated candles (only you can prevent park fires!) with rose petals everywhere. He talked about how much he loved me and wanted to spend the rest of his life with me. Then he began to get down on one knee and asked me, he barely hit the dock before I said "Yes, Yes, with all my heart yes!!!!!!" It was a moment I will remember for the rest of my life, my eyes brimming with tears, my heart bursting into an adrenaline rush, and Payton slipping this exquisite ring on my finger. I was ENGAGED!!!! Then I remember people around the park began to clap...Payton spurred it on by shouting "She said YES!" and the whole park started to cheer us on. We then began calling our parents, siblings and friends. I also wanted to text everyone I knew! It was all so perfect and then there was the added bonus of meeting up with Scott and Hannah at Katz's for dessert to celebrate. I cried on the ride over there feeling so blessed and joyful about being engaged to the man of my dreams!

(P) We like to joke that neither of us believes in divorce, so popping the question obviously is a big deal--only gonna get one shot at it! All I hoped for, in all this scheming and plotting and spoiling...was to communicate my love to Melissa and make this night a supremely special one. I know for me, I'll look back and laugh about having a bad poker face (I was totally nervous at dinner) or over-thinking about whether my planning was something she'd actually enjoy. In the end, it's about the love that we've found with each other and taking a huge step toward starting a life together. Getting engaged...it's a pretty "adult" thing to do, right? But I felt like a kid on Christmas morning, just so happy to be receiving this amazing gift. I love you Melissa!

(M) And that is our beautiful amazing God written story, thank you if you hung on till the end!!!! We love you all and are blessed with amazing friends and family! :)

Monday, March 22, 2010

Springing Forward

The other day I was reading through my roommate from college's blog and realized how awesome she was at updating, this inspired me to be more on the ball with blogging. Sometimes it is hard because when I write I always feel like there needs to be some sort of revelation moment. Although, I think I will start writing out some of the stories of my life in the blog as well, so here we go.

Life moves so quickly most days, I have two jobs and am in school part time, sometimes I have a hard time keeping up with everything. The graduate school program I am in is wonderful but a lot of work, before spring break I had two midterms and a project due on top of going to my jobs. During spring break I had the opportunity to work with Payton's youth group volunteering and ministering, it was a blast and makes me want to look for more mission work in this area. Now I am back to work and back to school, eek, will I ever survive all of it? On top of my normal school work I am preparing to take my certification test the beginning of April. Please be in prayer for me about this, I need to pass so I can be eligible to be hired.

Payton and I are doing wonderfully, he is such an encouragement in my life. I think he embodies what it means to serve and love one another the way Jesus did. He is working and going to school too so he completely understands where I am at. My relationship with Payton is growing and flourishing everyday and he teaches me how to be the best version of me all the time.

My biggest struggle right now is just the same old thing trying to live day by day. I find when I over analyze my life or worry too much I just become bogged down by unnecessary fear. Life is so beautiful and I am so richly blessed. God is teaching me everyday how to take one day at a time and to live in the here and now. So that is what I am praying for the most in the midst of this fast paced world to live, love and just let it be. That is my hope and prayer for everyone, we are more free when we learn how to let go and when we live day by day! :)

Here are a few pictures from this past semester and a little earlier
...I need to start taking more pictures!

Payton and I at the Stars verse Avalanche game in Dallas.

This was back in December Hannah, Elizabeth and I the night before Elizabeth got married!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


Since I was a little girl, I remember my mom being in love with mystery novels; She would read one about every week. My mom loves the twist, turns, and discoveries in every book, it is her way to unwind from her hectic day as a teacher. In my own life I have never been a huge fan of mystery novels, I do like the occasional thriller but not a huge mystery girl.

Beyond novels this same sentiment can be applied to my life; I am not a big fan of the mystery of life. I like to know where all the twists and turns are going before I reach the end. Mysteries are unclear and vague which makes me feel like I am jumping off a cliff. Why can't I just know where I am going to fall? Why does it have to be a surprise? Careful planning and knowing every step always leads to happiness, doesn't it?

Lately, through many circumstances I am learning the art of embracing the mystery that is life. I am learning that it does not always have to be a terrible thing just to jump in and not know where your going to land. Most of the happiest moments in life are the unplanned ones and constantly knowing where and when everything will happen leads to monotony. The beauty of life is found in mystery not knowing where the plot will take you next. Sometimes I am just too stubborn to realize these things but always get awoken to these thoughts.

As the months pass by, I am learning to live day by day and to leave room for God and the unexpected. There will be more details in my writings as I discover where God will lead me in the next few months. But for now I am learning to live in the mystery, while I am at it maybe I will read one of my mom's many mystery novels.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Frosted Window Panes

The smell of the corner house's fireplace, crisp cool air, feeling the warm hot chocolate go down your throat and seeing the beautiful lights strewn across the yards. All of these sensations give me the feeling that Christmas is here. It is hard to believe that the holiday season is upon us and I am reminded of the many blessings I have been given and the true meaning of it all.

The old adage "Tis better to give than to receive" has always been a persistent thought as I live in the moments of the holiday season. And I wonder if we truly believe those words. Although, gifts are being bought, wrapped and placed under the tree. Where are our hearts? Is it with the idea that the more money spent the more love there is or the fancier the gift the better? Now in my own life I love giving gifts and I do not see anything wrong with presents. My question this holiday season during a time where giving is typically at a high, what does it all mean to us?

I know for me, I get wrapped up in buying the perfect and most meaningful presents. My greatest desire when I give someone their gift is that they will be floored by my thoughtfulness. Sometimes, I miss the point of giving and what it means. When I listen to the radio I love hearing the stories of anonymous givers who give so much and want no recognition. Or the stories of the people who are struggling but still give as much as they can when they have little. I love these stories because through them I see their hearts and the true meaning of Christmas that I desire to live in that way also.

When I reflect on God's gift of Jesus to the world and the weight of what that truly means. The people who give without their names going on a record or the people who give with not having much themselves display Christ like love. I am so richly blessed and have a lot to offer not only in way of gifts but through how I give my time. During this Christmas time, I want to allow Christ to give through me and to be like the people who all they want to do is give. At the heart of this giving is self-less love, which is the same love Christ has for us.

In the moments of the hustle and bustle, I pray that there will be times when we remember what it all truly means. That our presents do not need to be perfect in appearance or value but when there is self-less love behind them they are perfect gifts. One of my favorite experiences of the holidays is to peer through the frosted window panes to see the beautiful Christmas trees. And as I look through them, I know that the love of family can always be reflected. In your gift giving this holiday season peer through the frosted window panes and remember it is about family, self-less love, gifts and most importantly God's gift to us, Jesus Christ.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Living in Between the Ordinary and Phenomenal

Exciting things have been happening in my life which has caused a drought of blogs. Typically, I can only write blogs when something really inpires me otherwise I would just sound like hum drum mush that does not amount to anything. And for the minute few who read this I want to write things that are phenomenal, inspiring, and exciting.

All the things that are happening right now, I find myself in between the ordinary and phenomenal. The main thing is I have a job, I need another job but I have one nonetheless. After months of searching and being unsure of where I would be, I have ended up where I started Houston, TX. This was the last place in the world I wanted to be but I have slowly become OK with being here for at least two to three years. And for the first year I will be living with my parents which so far has been fine. There is the ordinary side but of course to every ordinary thing there is something that is beyond what anyone hopes or dreams for in their life.

The phenomenal relationships come when you least expect it and of course this phenomenal side is about a boy, as most sides are. An incredible guy who walked into my life out of no where. He has been one of the greatest gifts God could have given me, he has turned my world upside down in a matter of just a little over a month. Everyday I get to see him has an excitement and surprise to it. Your whole life you wait for that to have if only for a little while and even better if it is beyond that. A person that just understands you completely and cares so much about you in an equal exchange.

Life truly is a mystery and two months ago I did not see any of this coming and I would not have had it any other way. God is good even in the midst of uncertainty. I remember my mom told me a few months ago when I had to turn down a job offer I so desperately wanted to take "God is doing something in all this, even when you do not think He is, you just do not know what it is yet." Little did I know how right she would be! Life has its ordinary moments but look and you may find or see something phenomenal. :)

Monday, June 29, 2009

Stories of Sacrifice and Love

Looking through another person's eyes for a moment to see the world in a different way, running through a place of evil villains, near death experiences and hope and if to only feel the pain or triumphs of someone I will never have the chance to meet. These scenarios are why I have a passion to read, to grow and to learn, for a second I leave this world and enter someone else's.

Last night I finished the epic saga of Harry Potter, a series that has swept the world for over ten years. These books open the imagination to a world so different and yet so similar to our own. The fight of good and evil is an ancient one but one that we will always be fighting. Two of the most beautiful and consistent themes through Harry Potter are the concepts of love and sacrifice. Oh love, the sound of the word, the feelings it bring, the adrenaline rush. The world is fond of the feeling of love but Harry Potter reveals the true meaning of love which is sacrifice.

Sacrifice is not something that comes easily, it certainly does not come easily to me. To lay down yourself for someone else, to give up your claim over anything so that someone else can be happy. As easy as it is to type on a computer, these ideals are not easily lived out.

My friend Sarah always said I have an obsession with finding Christian themes in the secular world, this is because I do believe that when you look at the plight of good verse evil there is a sense of who God is in the midst of it. Lately I have been realizing how often I hear "All you need is Love", "Love is the only thing that matters in our world", "love is the only thing worth fighting for". Something simple and yet so revolutionary occured to me as I listened to the words of those universal themes: "God is love", a phrase used among Christians constantly, real love, sacrificial love means that God is present in it because it is who He is.

God is closer than we could ever imagine even to those that do not believe He is real. He is love, let that idea captivate you. In all those books read and stories heard that are filled with sacrificial love, God is speaking through the midst of them all, His beautiful love for us.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Listening to the Moments of Acoustic Guitar

Right now I am sitting in a Starbucks, wishing I had a job and lived in Austin Texas or that I lived in a time or place where people lived off the land, rode horses, and experienced nature fully.The latter is more unlikely than the first scenario. Although mainly, I am wishing for contentment because especially during this season of my life, this has been a hard concept for me to realize.

These last few days have been a blast; I have basically been taking a tour through central Texas, I have been through San Antonio, Austin and Waco. Saw some good people and had some good conversation. In San Antonio I stayed with a family that I went to Haiti with last summer (well the dad and youngest son of the family). I met the oldest son this weekend, who loves music and is a brilliant guitar player. As I listened to him play, it occured to me that some of my favorite moments have been hearing people play this instrument.

The sound of the acoustic guitar has the ability to take me from whatever reality I am in and transform it into a majestic peace. The strums and plucks create an awareness that life is truly a beautiful gift. Even during this time of uncertainty and when really I still do not know where I am going to live or what job I will have. When I listen to the sweet chords, all of my fears and doubts fade away.

Even now as I sit in Starbucks, there is the sound of a soft acoustic guitar playing over the speaker. In the midst of watching the craziness of people walk in and out, that wonderful sound calms my soul.

To whom ever reads this, my hope and prayer for you today, is that in the midst of the business, craziness, and hecticness you find yourself in you find a few moments of peace. Whatever your muse may be a good book, music, conversation with a friend, let the acoustic guitars in your own world make you aware of how amazing life is right here and now.