Thursday, September 15, 2016

Our First Ten Months

This post is a day late - our official ten month anniversary was yesterday, but I didn't get this written in time. Can I blame it on pregnancy? (Obviously this is Lisa writing this post!)

Ten months ago (yesterday) was the best day of my life. We joined hands, hearts, and lives, and set out together on the greatest adventure we'd ever been on.

I was excited, as well as afraid.
I felt ready, and yet horribly unprepared.
Overwhelmed...both with joy and apprehension.
I didn't know it was possible to feel so at peace, and yet at the same time wonder "what in the world are we doing?!"
It was an amazing day. So many conflicting many incredible moments...a whirlwind of joy and love and wonder, and then we were off on our honeymoon - and the start of our new life together!

As I look back over the last ten months, I thought I'd share ten things - the first are things I've learned in that time, and the next are things I didn't expect going into marriage.

Things I've learned:

I knew this would be important, but I've come to realize it's the most important dynamic of our relationship. So many fights, disagreements, hurt feelings, and misunderstandings have been avoided merely because we talk things out. Quickly, as soon as one of us realizes that we've been hurt or don't like something, we go to the other person. Usually, it's a mere misunderstanding, or something completely unintentional, it's worked through in a matter of minutes, and life goes on.
But communication is more than just talking through problems. We just TALK.
A lot.
Surprise, right?
We talk about everything, share little details from our day, we're silly together, we talk about deep issues, and we talk about nonsense. And it makes us feel closer to each other.

Don't take things personally
This is something else that we have found makes a huge impact on how we relate to each other. I know of and have read of people who get personally hurt over small things, and in my mind, that is so damaging to a relationship. 
Growing up, one of my mom's favorite verses to quote at us girls was Proverbs 19:11 "A person's wisdom yields patience; it is to one's glory to overlook an insult." Whenever one of us would feel insulted or offended, she'd just say "Overlook insult!", and we all knew what she was referring to.
That mindset of overlooking offense, of just moving on, of letting things go - it's so wonderful. I'm not talking about staying quiet when someone offends you, but harboring bitterness inside. I'm talking about truly overlooking things, and not feeling personally offended when someone does something you don't like.

Always assume the best of your spouse
I actually read this quote in the book Love And Respect, by Emerson Eggerichs, and it's similar to the last point. Going into any situation, we always assume the best. Instead of feeling like "he did such-and-such...he obviously must not love me, or must be upset with me", it helps so much to approach each other assuming the hurt or problem was unintentional or a misunderstanding.
Now, there are times when one or both of us are just being downright selfish, and then we can talk through it and apologize.
But instead of automatically assuming the worst, assume the best.

Prioritize "us time"
Going into marriage, I knew this concept was important, but I thought it would always be easy to make happen. Not so!
My biggest struggle is feeling guilty that we are going off on a date, or going to do something that's "just us". But after we do, we always, always feel closer, more connected, and are better off for it.
Now that kiddos are coming, I know it's just going to get harder :P

Set boundaries
Along those same lines, we've learned it's okay and even necessary to set boundaries. Our relationship with each other is the most important relationship in our lives, and protecting it is so important.

Read the Bible together
This seems like a no-brainer, and it should be. But it's truly amazing how much closer I feel after we have read together....usually something hits one of us as we're reading, and that leads to a long conversation, and long conversations are always bonding :)

Things I didn't expect:

It's not as hard as I anticipated
I say this slightly tongue in cheek, because I know we have ONLY been married for ten months, and that we're technically still in that "honeymoon season". We'll see what I say after being married for ten years as opposed to ten months :D
But that said, I was mentally geared up to struggle more, disagree more, and just have a harder time overall. It hasn't been that way, though. It's basically been the best ten months EVER ♥

Our physical need for each other is different than during engagement
When we were engaged, we were constantly holding hands. Literally.
Like, I think some people wondered if we were super-glued together.
We felt desperate for each other, and I remember that during that time, I thought "Wow, it's so sad how couples get married and lose this intense love we have for each other!"
I was wrong!! Now that we're married, we can sit next to each other during a meal, or just talking, or during church, and actually NOT hold hands for more than a few seconds :)
What we found was that there was a difference between desperation, and love.
We are just as much in love now (if not more so!), and way more physically connected (obviously), and yet that desperation is gone. I didn't expect it to change like that, but the intense desperation we had for each other gave way to a deeper, steadier, more passionate love. We realized that what we felt during our engagement wasn't a gauge of how much we loved each other, but was instead just a desperation coming from the fact that we were so in love and having to physically hold back so much.

I think laughter is a love language for us!
I had no idea how much time we would spend just being SILLY together! We have laughed until we cried on countless occasions. It is so wonderful to be so comfortable with another have absolutely NO reservations, and to be able to just enjoy and revel in each other's company.

We fall more in love every day
And I truly didn't know that was possible....but we do. It's the best thing. Ever. ♥


Friday, September 2, 2016

The 5 Rules of Courtship

Ok, here it goes. First actual post on the blog. Time to prove whether this will be a blog with any decent advice, or just one of those crack blogs where half of the advice doesn't make sense and none of it works.
So, here goes.  

*eyes closed, toes crossed, jumping in three, two one.....*

5 Rules of courtship - things that Lisa and I learned through ours.
I figured I would start with our courtship, since that's where our relationship got serious. The courtship was the foundation  of our relationship, and has had drastic implications on defining our relationship ever since.

But first, I have to confess something.

There aren't 5 rules in courtship. There aren't 10. There isn't even one. Technically.

I completely made that part up about the 5 for the title. Shameless click bait. Numerical and incremental steps towards a promised bliss works every time in the marketing world.
As you just proved.

It's ok - you didn't know. It's my ridiculous sense of humor. You'll learn soon enough, if you don't know me already.
I've always wanted to do that for a blog post, and you poor chaps got to be my helpless guinea pigs.

Anyway - moving on.  

But I did tell the truth that this post would be about courtship, so..... we square?

Coursthip, yes. Courtship...and what are is its purposes, and guidelines. And what aren't.
A few mere years ago it seemed it was all the rage in conservative circles. Everybody harped on it and stressed on how it's the only Biblical and safe and far more spiritual approach to love and relationships than typical 'worldly dating'. You can see the quotation marks around the worldly dating part there with finger notations and a spiritual look to my face. It was the gold standard - along with fifteen passenger vans, denim jumpers and kale.

Didn't take it long to fall out of favor though - seems everybody wolfed down, found it wasn't all it was hyped up to be, and spit it out in passionate Jonah style - onto several vehement blog posts around the internet, sparking lots of controversy, finger pointing, and general name calling and blame-laying in lovely circles.          

One side says the other is legalistic, unreal, stingy, afraid of getting hurt and letting their kids have fun in the world. The other says the opposition is worldly, loose on their morals, burned and crabby by hurt emotions, with a bitter streak.

With words like those, you can just see how much fun the internet had. Both sides were mercilessly shredded and burned on the alter of those lame blogs with ramshackle advice I mentioned back in the beginning of the post.

Yay. So much for rational and sane conversation.

So, here is our take on the subject, from what we learned.

From the top.

So, the whole point of courtship is touted up to be the safe and fool-proof way to go through a relationship to produce the happiest and safest results. Or so we are told.
Its opponents say otherwise - but we aren't going to listen to them for the present.

Courtship and/or dating is all about relationships between boys and girls. Men and women.
It's really not that complicated, as we see it, and definitely not as complicated as everyone says it is. The Bible has some pretty bare bones rules that speak to relationships that come into play here, but nothing you didn't already know.

We know the Bible says that we are to not have sex before marriage. Kinda a no-brainer there. None of that getting busy on the second date.
We know the Bible says we are to honor our parents.
Oooh - that one got a few more cringe faces. I can see the arguments and exceptions piling up in your head. Stories of overbearing fathers and broomstick mothers keeping a heavy and relentlessness claw on the children - sons that are kept feeling inadequate for marriage due to high standards, or daughters kept feeling inaccessible because of unreasonable stipulations and requirements for potential suitors.
But just because some people use their parental authority wrong doesn't mean we are supposed to stop honoring and obeying them. Two wrongs don't make a right.
Anyway.... wow - I get distracted easily.
We know we are supposed to marry in Christ - not be unequally yoked.

Aaaaaaand..... That's about it.

Seriously. God doesn't have a list of courtship and/or marriage checklists that He hands out in the front of our Bibles, along with the list of music we are supposed to listen to and what movies we are supposed to watch. A few principles, and that's about it. It's all the applications of those principles that get everybody all wrapped around the shoe-horn, along with miles of do's and don'ts, that to them are all just as holy and sacred as the principles themselves. You try to tell a mainstream reformed baptist that you think its ok to let your kids line-dance or swing-dance with kids of the opposite gender, and it will produce a reaction more drastic and horrific than that time a week ago when they found the crock-pot line was unplugged. Stars collide, planets implode, and casseroles rot. End times are eminent.

Image result for world exploding

To them, the rules of the guy-girl lines are written in canon law and must be spoken of with bent knee and head bowed. *cue angelic music*
No hugging. No time alone with someone of the opposite gender. No close friends of the opposite gender. No ever even touching anyone of the opposite gender. Definitely no dancing.  And the rules roll out, and go on and on, and grow and expand like the latest list of Hillary's lies about her emails.

And most of those may be wise applications - very good things to do to keep everyone accountable and above reproach, but the world certainly doesn't end, and the biscuits will not burn when someone doesn't see it the way we do.

We didn't really touch before we got engaged, but not because we thought it was somehow sinful. We were just far too aware of what happens to reason and logic and morals when you start getting really touchy and physical before you actually intend on getting in bed. Everything in you telling you to stop and pull away goes the same way of Hillary's emails. Gone. Disappeared. So we decided not to - simple as that.

We made a rule that the two of us would never be out of eyesight of someone else - not because that's wicked, but just because we never wanted anyone to make any accusations we couldn't disprove - just stay above board. It's also less tempting to get hanky panky if there's a third person within eyesight.  

Stuff like that - Touching may have been ok - being alone together may have been ok - we just didn't want to make temptations harder on each other, so we didn't.

So, moral of the story. God has a few principles on how we are to live life - Stay pure, honor your parents, follow God. Courtship is just a process to figure out whether or not you and another person should get married, and as long as you stay within the general principles He gives, and listen to where God is leading you, the exact details of what's and how's will not crack the halo on your guardian angel.
That's courtship.   Call it Christian dating, call it courtship, I really don't care. That's what its all about.
That's what makes courtships so fun - they are all so different, because we all see the lines and rules and apply the principles in different ways. I can think of at least 5 other courtships in my close circle of friends, and all of them are very different in how they all played out, what were the rules of engagement (pun intended...) and how their particular families applied the principles.  

But, not all courtships end in marriage.

Image result for boy walking away from girl

Our courtship ended up with us getting married - but ones that don't end in marriage aren't to be written off as unsuccessful. Go back to what our purpose was again - to stay pure, honor parents, and follow God. If you went through a courtship and found out you weren't right for each other, but still stuck to those core principles - case closed, mission complete.      

Not many people know it, but I went through a courtship before I courted Lisa. It never got past the stage of talking to her father, in this case, but I still say it was a successful courtship. I decided after pursuing it a bit farther that the girl wasn't quite what I was looking for, but God was still leading me, I stayed pure, and no hearts were broken in the process. Job well done, in my book.

It's just a vetting process, basically. A process that, if done right, can be filled with fun, love, respect and honor, no matter how it ends. Or if done wrong, filled with pain, heartbreak, flattened toes and burned biscuits.

That's all it is. People who hate courtship usually hate it because of fathers who were too strict, rules that were too hard, or they think that you should be able to have the emotional intimacy of a dating relationship without the responsibility tying the knot. They want their cake without having dinner first.
But that's a whole different topic.

Am I glad we courted? I honestly wouldn't have had it any other way. The framework of the courtship allowed us to get to know each other and pursue a relationship, without violating our consciences, and while staying pure, all at the same time. It let us honor God and honor each other, yet provided a pathway for us to grow close. Different people have done it differently in the fine details, and in the end, they turned out just as pure and close and as in-love as we did.

And that's the way it should be.

What are your thoughts on it? Do you have any personal stories with your own courtship that was done differently? We'd love to hear it - drop a comment below.