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Aloha Part Two – The Couples' Week

There’s so much to say about the second week in Hawaii, I’m not sure where to start. So many people have asked me what my favorite part of the trip was, and I simply can’t answer. Everything?! Well, except maybe for Honolulu traffic and the ridiculous LACK of road signage anywhere on the island…but otherwise, it was nearly perfect.

Friday Amy and I eagerly waited for the boys to arrive at the airport, where Julie had dropped us at the curbside. We wore our matching new ‘Woman to Blame’ shirts and floppy hats…the boys were unimpressed. Matt even told Blake to run AWAY! Obviously, they don’t know what’s cute. After cramming our load of crap into the rental car we were on our way to Ko Olina Marriott Beach Club – where we would spend 7 wonderful days!

Saturday morning we rounded ourselves up and decided to head down to the beach for the first time. There are 4 manmade lagoons at Ko Olina, which were so perfect for swimming in; no big waves and no threat of big marine life! Heading down the sand for the first time was a bit of an adventure; the footing not so easy for Matt and I. Blake stepped up on the other side, and we quickly figured out walking on the beach, the three of us, with Amy bringing up the rear as the official ‘carrier’ of our stuff. We figured out our system and it worked just fine. I was so happy!! The first time we ventured into the ocean, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I didn’t know how Matt would feel, how well he’d swim, how comfortable we’d be…or how emotional I would be at the sight of him trying to explore the water on his own. It was hard for him to find his footing, and to control his reactions, but he tried. And I was so proud, so instantly grateful for the chance to explore this uncharted territory. It was only the first of many instances that Matt’s open heart would touch me.

Sunday morning we went to church near the beach, where Julie and her family worship while there. After the service, we watched as her husband and sister were baptized in the ocean. It was a special moment for Julie and I couldn’t help but think back on Matt’s baptism, just a few years ago.

That afternoon we spent a few hours at the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet with the boys. Blake was on the hunt for his own vacation hat, and Matt decided he should probably have one too. We loaded ourselves down with more Hawaiian treasures; including awesome Hawaiian shirts for the boys to wear to the Luau! Later that evening, we met Julie and her husband down at the entrance to the secret beach, to strategize over how we were going to get Matt down there. They all took one look at the path and decided it would be easiest to piggyback Matt down to the beach. I looked at him, to see his reaction…he shrugged it off. No big deal. He’d do that. I was stunned. It was only one year ago, when the prospect of this trip was first being tossed around that Matt’s first reaction to even GOING to Hawaii was no…mostly because he was uneasy flying out without me. Not only had he flown out there without me – he and Blake had handled the trip with no problems, no issues. And now men were talking about carrying him down on their backs, and he didn’t even hesitate. He was 100% willing. It was a huge, huge deal…I’m not sure anyone will ever really comprehend that. I was amazed!

So Monday was the big day of the wedding vow renewals. After spending a few hours at the beach, we all headed up to the room to ‘ready’ ourselves and headed down to the secret beach a little early so they guys would have plenty of time to get Matt down the path without rushing. It must have taken them all of about 15 seconds to load Matt on Ryan’s back and about a minute to get him safely on the beach. I couldn’t believe it! Not just that they’d done it…but that it was not a big deal to any of them. They were all so willing to do whatever it took to get him down there. I can’t say enough how touched I was. Julie’s husband, Ryan and her brother in law Michael, a virtual stranger to us…was right there helping at every move. And Matt was totally ok accepting their help. Amazing.

The ceremonies were both short and sweet – but meaningful each in their own way. It all happened so quickly – but before I knew it, we were beginning our ceremony. As we read the vows we’d written, I couldn’t help but choke up a bit. I didn’t mean to…it took me by surprise really. But standing there with Matt, it was all so real. Here was this thing we’d been talking about for so long…what we’d wear, where we’d be, what we’d say…and we were actually doing it. The waves were lapping the shore, the wind was blowing the trees, the air was fresh and tropical, the sand smooth beneath our bare feet, Matt’s hands strong and familiar in mine, his eyes fixed on my own, our words being spoken softly to each other; I was completely unaware of anyone else but us. It meant so much more to me than I can fully say. It was all I had hoped it would be and more. God brought us to this place in our lives, He brought us through our journey so far together, and I know that He will see us through the rest of our lives as well. I’m so grateful for the chance to say to Matt and everyone that I choose him again and again. It was a day we’ll never forget…nestled in amongst a trip we’ll never forget!!

After the ceremonies, we celebrated with a delicious meal at Roy’s, which was conveniently located within walking distance of the resort! We enjoyed walking down and back in the warm Hawaiian breezes, laughing and talking with our old, old friends. We’d both been in each other’s weddings and it was really special to be a part of this day with these friends as well.

Ok – if I keep up this much detail NO ONE is going to finish reading this post…so let me try and summarize. The rest of the trip was filled with many more fun, fabulous Hawaiian adventures; we spent a very moving morning at Pearl Harbor being completely overwhelmed by the stories and memorabilia from such an important piece of our American history; we took a drive up to the North shore and stopped for lunch at a favorite local place in Haleiwa; we walked up to Waimea Falls, where Blake, Amy, and I swam out and climbed up into the water fall; we spent an evening enjoying an amazing luau at the resort complete with fantastic music, dancing, food, and AMAZING tricks with things on fire; we hung out at the resort pool; we grilled fresh mahi-mahi and tuna for supper; we discovered Hawaiian sweet bread and coconut syrup make incredible French toast; we drank Mai Tai’s in the hot tub; we floated in the ocean; we sat and watched the sunset; we laughed and laughed and laughed; we PARASAILED; we completely and whole heartedly fell head over heels in love with Hawaii.

On our last morning in Hawaii, Matt and I sat alone on the balcony of our room and looked out at the ocean one last time. We found ourselves reminiscing about the things we’d done and seen on the trip and how unbelievable it all was. I felt such gratitude for the chance to go and experience it like I did. We joked with Blake and Amy about how Matt’s stroke was ‘all worth it’ just so we could have this experience. But truly, it is something to realize how many blessings can be born of trials and grief. I told Julie – if it weren’t for her cancer, we wouldn’t have had this trip…and if it weren’t for Matt’s stroke we also wouldn’t have had this trip. Even if we had gone to Hawaii, it wouldn’t have meant what it did to us now. We accomplished so much on this trip that just a few years ago we never dreamed possible. It is nearly a miracle. Matt was so open, so willing to try things, so willing to accept help and simply soak in all that he could no matter his manly attitudes, pride, or other people’s perceptions. He’s a guy who had a stroke and uses a wheelchair…but he’s also a guy who walked in the ocean, sat on the beach, stood in a pool, flew in the air behind a boat, let strangers carry him on their backs, and spoke words of love and commitment to his wife on a beach. Matt let go of so many of his insecurities and fears on this trip, and just let himself go. It was amazing to witness and be a part of. I’m just so grateful.

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