"Chocolate or Vanilla? Circle One."

It was written on the church bulletin and placed in my lap as the offertory basket was being passed. Loving Swirl frozen yogurt, I circled both. At the sight of my answer, Sarah grinned and held onto the bulletin to write sermon notes. I didn't think twice why she would ask me that-call me clueless.

After church, I settled back into my dorm room and got to work on the remaining music theory and music literature homework that had been staring back at me all weekend. Left without a roommate at this point in the semester, I had nothing better to do than homework and listen to the activity of the rest of the girls on my floor who actually had social lives. Part of me was jealous, part of me tossed the thought aside because I knew I didn't like the taste of beer.

Then it started, a thumping, or rather, trouncing, down our hallway that made me think a troupe of elephants was coming to offer me a ride-giving me an escape from the monotony of solfege and cadences.

This couldn't possibly have anything to do with me, just keep working.

 The trouncing stopped and I felt like I was being watched. I turned to see my door frame filled with faces gathered around a cake with candles dotting the chocolate frosting. My jaw hit the floor-Sarah, Matt, Kearstin, Brian, Andrew, and another Matt had come to wish me a happy birthday and give me a break from my solitude. They made themselves at home in my room and illegally lit the candles, hurrying me to make a wish and blow them out before my RA smelled a hint of the flame.

God, please make this next year of life better than this past semester. Amen.

And the flames flickered as my breath snuffed them out.

God answered those prayers in a huge way over the course of the next several months and linked me to friends that have stuck by me through thick and thin. And part of me wondered, as a 19 year old, how we'd all end up: who we'd marry, how many kids we'd have, where we'd go after graduation.

I'm so thrilled to say that many of us are still in the Des Moines area, many are married and several are happily single. Those who are married are now parents of beautiful children. And while I assumed that marriage and children was a natural part of life, I never let myself imagine my wedding day or what a family of my own would look like. Call me cautiously optimistic. Little did I know that God had it mapped out already-how I'd meet Gerard, when we'd get married and when he'd grace us with our leading Laidy.

It's now been 10 years since that parade down my hallway and Gerard is honing his craft at creating chocolate meringue pies for each of my birthdays since marriage. (I guess I've leaned more towards chocolate than vanilla.) And this year, he'll be doing the same whisking and stirring but he'll be joined by his Little Chef in Training romping in her exersaucer. Please excuse me while I go grab a kleenex and tear up in amazement at His many blessings over the past decade. No, it hasn't been without challenges, disappointments, frustrations, and angry moments, but I'm still in awe of the life He has bestowed upon us.

I may not be anywhere near a

Proverbs 31 woman

, but I am definitely

smiling towards the future

 and the next 10 years.