this is how we do it

TEN Years. A whole decade. That really feels like something.

Seemed like a good time for reflection. We sat together and thought and talked, my man and I. What’s been our best? What are we looking forward to in our next ten?

It was super hard to narrow down one specific moment or event that we thought was our very best. We both agreed that our best thing wasn’t a thing at all. The favorite part for both of us has been that feeling we have that we’ve just always been. There’s kind of an air of timelessness to our thing, a bit hard to describe. Like we just got together and we’ve always been together all at once. Crazy and cool.

Do we have the perfect marriage? I would definitely say so.

As long as you define “perfect marriage” like this:

perfect marriage

We recounted the unfolding of the last ten years of not giving up on each other. Not when an emotional affair was confessed. Not when our personal sin junk was trying to take us down. Not when we were both working overtime to pay off over $100K.  Not when our families gave us zero support in any of our endeavors. Not when the whole pretty picture of a marriage and family started melting into something completely foreign. Not when our son was lying in ICU from a drug overdose. Never. Not ever. Not that we might not have thought about it, because sometimes it just seems a whole heck of a lot easier to give up. But we both decided to stick it out. Fighting back to back. In it together.

Sometimes people ask us how we do it. I guess just they’re asking how we do all this life together and still seem to enjoy each other so much.

I’d like to say it just kind of happens, but that’s just not true, friends.  It takes work. A lot of it. It’s a constant contest to out-love each other. To out-nice each other. To serve one another in love, when we feel like it and when we just plain don’t.

We talk a lot. About silly things, wondering things, deep things. We ask each other questions. We silently study each other, figuring out what the other loves and keeping that information tucked away to use in an onslaught of awesomeness at a later time. We try to fight fair when it happens. We spend lots of time together but also purposely spend time apart. We keep things hot. We have great friends who love us and whom we love greatly. We serve others together. Most of all, we love God together, however imperfectly.

This is how we do it. And this is the stuff we will keep doing for ten more years, then another ten, and hopefully ten more after that. Whatever we do, we will do it together, wrapped up in a cord made of three strands, not just two.

We will keep trying to out-love each other, and mess up a lot while we attempt it, of course. Here’s to our first ten years, and to every moment afterward.

rings

“Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed.  If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” -Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

“Many waters cannot quench love, nor can rivers drown it. If a man tried to buy love with all his wealth, his offer would be utterly scorned.” -Song of Solomon 8:7

 

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Moments, Day 24: I Just Don’t Believe That…

Recently we were talking with a couple who is engaged and wanting some help smoothing out some relationship bumps before tying the knot. They are both Christians and want to start their marriage out with God at the center. They’ve also been living together for quite some time.

So in addition to the normal how-to-have-a-rockin’-marriage advice, we had to address that one teensy little detail about them shacking up. So…we suggested that if there was no way that they could physically live at separate addresses, they should at least transition to two different bedrooms and commit to abstain from all physical intimacy until they were married.

That didn’t go over so well. Even though these folks said they wanted to put God first in their marriage, they went on to tell us that they “just didn’t believe in that” and even though the bible said that they should be waiting on that part of their relationship, they felt that it wasn’t something they could change.

We were confused.

Yes, it’s tough. Especially if you’ve been used to doing something a certain way and then you have to do it a different way, maybe even do something (or do without something) that makes the overall dynamic of your life look and feel very different. But if you want to line up with the abundant life that God has already put in place for you, there are always going to be some things that have to change.

As I thought about this, I came to the conclusion that there’s a whole lot more going on than just a couple of young horny folks who say they can’t control themselves. That’s nothing new in this world. The problem here was that they had tried to justify their actions by re-stating their “belief system” to allow for the provision of whatever they want in that particular arena. It’s the old “I believe in God, but…” argument.

But what’s really going on here is that this young man and woman (and all of us from time to time) have a wrong view of God. Instead of understanding that He is all-knowing, perfectly-loving, and vastly generous, and therefore would only give us those things that are the very best for us, we decide to believe that there’s something really awesome out there that God is just trying to keep us from. He never lets us have any fun, dang it. When it comes right down to it, it’s a trust issue.

The serpent was the shrewdest of all the wild animals the Lord God had made. One day he asked the woman, “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?”

 2 “Of course we may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,” the woman replied. 3“It’s only the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden that we are not allowed to eat. God said, ‘You must not eat it or even touch it; if you do, you will die.’”

 4 “You won’t die!” the serpent replied to the woman. 5God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.”

 6 The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it.

Just like our sister Eve, we’ve been tricked into feeling like we can’t trust God for the very best. She and Adam had everything. EVERYTHING. Their life literally was perfection, and they enjoyed the constant intimate connection with God that we all long for today. It was already there for them. God had made everything and had given them everything for their pleasure. There was one thing He asked them to avoid. That’s it. Just one thing. What did the Deceiver focus on? That one thing. He actually twisted God’s words into making it sound like a totally different situation. He made it sound like God was mean, and that He was trying to keep something from us.  God was trying to keep us from something, alright, but it wasn’t something good. It was something destructive. It was the knowledge and experience of sin in our lives.

Now we know a whole lot about that, don’t we? Sin is a regular part of our everyday lives that we have to work against. And we have that distrusting view of God…like He’s some grumpy old grandpa who is irritated at the slightest thought of us having any fun. But when you’ve reached that point of having a right view of God’s incredible love for you, you’ll realize that He really does know the plans He has for you, and that in asking for our obedience,  He is not keeping something good from us, but rather keeping the best of the best for us.

How about you? When was a time in your life that you sacrificed the best in your life for something that you just thought was good? Or did you have the opportunity to put aside something that seemed good at the time in order to wait for God’s very best?

Moments, Day 13: A Good Woman is Hard to Find

Ladies, most of us are pretty familiar with Proverbs 31, right?  Many times we look at that and see an unattainable vision of wifely  perfection, a person that we will never be, so we give up on it altogether…

I challenge you to take a new look at Proverbs 31, a little chunk at a time. Consider this part, beginning in verse 10, quoted here from The Message:

“A good woman is hard to find,
   and worth far more than diamonds.
Her husband trusts her without reserve,
   and never has reason to regret it.
Never spiteful, she treats him generously
   all her life long.”

(Did you like the upgrade from rubies to diamonds?) : ) It’s true that a good woman  is hard to find these days, especially with many of us growing up without anyone to show us what real love and respect looks and feels like in a marriage. So when a godly man finds a woman who truly is good to him, you better believe he thinks she’s the most valuable thing around. He reciprocates by treating her like the princess she is.

I can hear you now…Seriously, Krysten? You’re talkin’ fairy tales here…

No, ladies, I am not. We all want a man that feels that way toward us, and some of us are even blessed enough to have it. But those of us who have it know that it’s not because we’re lucky. It’s because we’ve purposed ourselves to take actions that help make sure the rest of the verses above are true of us. Think about your relationship. Can your husband trust you without reserve? Can he trust you not to frivilously overspend money and wreck the family budget or to not talk about intimate details of your love life with your mother (um, yeah..that’s not appropriate) or to pray for him on a daily basis or to encourage him in his passions? Believe me, I don’t hit all those marks perfectly either, but they are always in my sights. Does he ever have a reason to regret placing his trust in you? Have you betrayed his confidence or mocked one of his pursuits in front of your friends? Have you emasculated him with your words in an ettempt to prove how much better/smarter/more efficient at handling things you really are?  Hits hard sometimes, doesn’t it?

Let’s look at the rest of those verses…Are you spiteful toward your husband or do you treat him generously? Do you live on the quid pro quo system where you never do anything special for him unless he’s done something good for you? Are you withholding yourself from him physically because he didn’t put his dishes in the dishwasher last night for the 100th time? It’s time to rethink your motives and your approach.

Life isn’t perfect, and husbands and wives certainly aren’t either. We all fail each other in a thousand little ways…all I am saying is that it should be our goal not to. Your husband is THE most important person in your life, second only to Jesus Himself.  That’s right…your husband comes right after God and right before your kids. That’s before your kids. Many of you won’t agree with me or just can’t accept that for some reason. But think about it…what good is it to raise a child that can put away their toys and socks in an orderly manner, say please and thank you, read above grade-level, and perform well in several sports, if they grow up to live in dysfunctional, unloving relationships because they never saw one that worked?? What would you rather have for your child…the ability to be a good task-manager, or the ability to love and be loved well? The best way you can teach your kids to love is to be an example of unselfish, sacrificial love. And God has created marriage with that purpose in mind…for us to learn how to love and sacrificially serve another human being. Have you ever thought that marriages are meant to last a lifetime because it may very well take that long to become good at being a sacrificial, loving person? Just a thought.

How beautiful that God gives us infinite opportunites to serve, love, fail, forgive, and try again right along side another person we’ve promised to share this whole thing called life with! So ladies, take a moment to contemplate the verses above. Not so you can start to beat yourself up all over again for falling short  of this ideal, but rather to look at these as targets to keep in your sights on a daily basis. Choose one that you’ve had difficulty with and focus on it. For example, I struggle to be generous with Todd sometimes, specifically with my time. I have a lot of things I want to do (including write!) and when we are actually home together I know that my time would be best spent hanging out with him and talking face-to-face, asking how work is going for him, encouraging him in his newest pursuits, doing little things to show my love for him etc… (and by the way, in that same time he’s doing all those same things for me!) But usually I find myself  rushing off to work extra early in the morning instead of making him a little breakfast snack, reading countless books instead of engaging him in great conversation, and leaving giant piles of unfolded laundry around while I write, rather than taking 20 minutes to put everything away properly just because I know how he enjoys an uncluttered environment. I’m definitely not perfect at it, but I’m getting better. Realizing (maybe even admitting?) there’s something to work on is the first big step. Then taking a little measure toward the goal is one more step. .

After all, isn’t it worth it? Isn’t your man worth it? Isn’t your marriage worth it? Even if (and especially when!) it costs me a few minutes of my precious, hurried time, I want to treat my husband generously all my life long so he knows that he is most definitely worth it.

Your Marriage is NOT a Contract

As a teacher, I work under a contract that has been negotiated between my teacher’s union and my school district’s board. Both parties come to the table and discuss a multitude of issues regarding what certified employees such as myself are able or expected to do/not do. I understand the amount of work that goes into this whole process, and I appreciate the people who lead the charge on both sides of the equation. A lot of time and effort goes into negotiating the deal, compromising or agreeing upon what  would be acceptable for both parties involved, as well as for the people they represent. Usually at the end of this arduous process, the two sides have arrived at an imperfect yet mutually beneficial agreement that lasts for whatever time frame is indicated. All is well for now.

But when it comes down to it, the entire contract is in place because neither side fully trusts that the other will do the things that honest, loyal, and devoted employers and employees naturally should do. My contract, for example, states that I may be required to provide “a statement from a physician when absences exceed 8 full days per school year.” Obviously the folks who wrote that stipulation in my contract don’t trust that I am using my sick days appropriately if I have to be out more than 8 days in a given school year. I am not saying this is necessarily unreasonable. In fact it would be very unusual for me to ever be out anywhere close to that many days in a school year. All I am saying is that the reason this contract exists is because of distrust. Each side thinks the other side is only out for its own good. In the cases of many contracts, that is likely so. A contract is created when two or more parties enter into an agreement and need to protect themselves if anything should go wrong. It can be revoked at any time if either party doesn’t uphold their end of the bargain. Also, since the two parties agreed upon the terms of the contract, the whole thing can be considered null and void if both parties change their minds about how they want things to work. They can simply agree to no longer hold each other to the terms of the contract, and move on.

Marriage, which is typically viewed as a contract in our society, was in fact never meant to be a contract at all. Contracts are created by the people who want to make an agreement with each other. Marriage, however, is God’s idea. He created it. He had created everything in the universe, up to and including man, and it was all good. But then you see the first thing in the world that is not good: man being alone.

 “Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.”  So the Lord God formed from the ground all the wild animals and all the birds of the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would call them, and the man chose a name for each one. He gave names to all the livestock, all the birds of the sky, and all the wild animals. But still there was no helper just right for him. So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep. While the man slept, the Lord God took out one of the man’s ribs and closed up the opening. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib, and he brought her to the man.

“At last!” the man exclaimed.“This one is bone from my bone, and flesh from my flesh!  She will be called ‘woman,’ because she was taken from ‘man.’”

This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one. Now the man and his wife were both naked, but they felt no shame.” -Genesis 2:18-25 NLT

This is the picture of the first marriage. God’s the one doing all the major action in these verses. God saw that it wasn’t good for man to be alone. God saw that none of the animals of the earth would do the job. God formed woman out of man’s body. God gave the woman to the man. God set the whole thing up. Adam just stands back and says “YES!!” This whole operation was established by God so that the two would unite into one. So they could have someone that they would be with forever and be completely vulnerable and open with, and never feel ashamed of themselves around. THIS is the picture of marriage. This is a covenant established by God and given to His people, not something the people came up with and scribbled down on a piece of paper, in hopes that signing it would somehow link them together for the future. Not even close.

Marriage, your marriage and mine, are reflections of God’s love for us. The allegory of Christ coming back for His bride is no coincidence. If we follow what God has established as a marriage, then we as a couple will reflect that kind of union. The trouble is, we are all messed up people. We look at our marriage as a contract that we agreed to, but now things might be getting too tough to deal with and we don’t really agree to that stuff anymore…and so if we no longer agree, then those signatures are null and void, right?  We can just agree to forget the contract and move on with life. After all, God wants us to be happy, right?

Not exactly. God wants us to keep our promises with integrity and work through our issues using His strength until we can get past the hurt, the pain, the indifference…whatever. The main goal of a marriage is not to be happy, although if we do it right, we definitely will be. Does that mean that every minute of every day will be all dreamy and wonderful? Nope.  Does it mean that my spouse will always do what I want him to? Um, no. Does it mean that we’re both getting all the sex we want exactly when we want it? Not so much. But it does mean that your relationship is built on trust, not distrust. You enter into a covenant (a solemn, binding pledge) with each other and with God for companionship and mutual love & intimacy. It’s not a list of things you sign because you don’t really trust that the other will do them. It’s a pledge to God that you will love this person as He has loved us. You will serve this person as Christ served us. You will do whatever it takes to uphold the companionship and intimacy of the relationship in order to show the world that love really does exist, and it only comes from God.

God’s Word gives us an understanding of how serious our vows are to God. “It is better not to vow than to make a vow and not fulfill it.” Ecclesiastes 5:5. Clearly God is showing us that if you’re not ready to take a vow to Him or to another person, you shouldn’t make the vow. Making a vow or a pledge means you will fulfill it and see it through. There’s no expiration date on marriage vows prior to the death of one or both of the spouses. So if you are ending your marriage because the two of you cannot see eye to eye, or because you love the person but are no longer “in love” with them, then you have broken your vow – left it unfulfilled – to your spouse and to God. He is clearly displeased with that. These may feel like harsh words but truth is sometimes not easy to hear.

So, okay…let’s say we agree that marriage is a covenant, not a contract. What do we do when things go wrong? What do we do when we aren’t having those feelings toward each other that a husband and wife should have? What do we do when we are hurt, taken advantage of, or just simply not in love anymore? We take our hurts to the one who created the covenant. He sees you. (See Yahweh-Roi, Genesis 16)  He knows what has been going on. He understands you’ve been hurt and that your spouse is not being the person He created him or her to be right now. He gets it. He has been with you every step of the way, no matter how ugly things have gotten. But the One who created everything is the same One who can do anything. We have to give our hurt back to Him to deal with, not just start feeling around for the lever to the escape hatch.

In honoring our vow to our spouse and to God, we have to be able to look at them with His eyes. This fight will be won through prayer…asking God to let you look at your spouse again and see them as He sees them. But there’s another important prayer…asking God to reveal the ways that you have not fulfilled the vows you made, asking God’s forgiveness for those parts you’ve played in your marriage deteriorating to this point. In the majority of cases where a marriage has gone downhill, there is not one offender and one helpless victim. Usually the problems are an accumulation of years of instances where we disappoint, try to control, shoot backhanded comments, expect too much from someone, lie, cover up, redirect emotions to inappropriate places, take each other for granted, etc… In only very few specific situations is a bomb dropped in the middle of a marriage by one spouse while the other party did not contribute in any way to the problems.

So how do we know for sure if we are behaving in a way that marks our committment to the covenant we made with God and our spouse? There are many places in scripture to look, but one of the most direct and comprehensive sections in God’s Word that speaks to how the marriage relationship works is found in Ephesians 5:21-33. Here it is in The Message translation, which I believe gives us a lovely and accurate perspective:

21Out of respect for Christ, be courteously reverent to one another.

 22-24Wives, understand and support your husbands in ways that show your support for Christ. The husband provides leadership to his wife the way Christ does to his church, not by domineering but by cherishing. So just as the church submits to Christ as he exercises such leadership, wives should likewise submit to their husbands.

 25-28Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church—a love marked by giving, not getting. Christ’s love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty. Everything he does and says is designed to bring the best out of her, dressing her in dazzling white silk, radiant with holiness. And that is how husbands ought to love their wives. They’re really doing themselves a favor—since they’re already “one” in marriage.

 29-33No one abuses his own body, does he? No, he feeds and pampers it. That’s how Christ treats us, the church, since we are part of his body. And this is why a man leaves father and mother and cherishes his wife. No longer two, they become “one flesh.” This is a huge mystery, and I don’t pretend to understand it all. What is clearest to me is the way Christ treats the church. And this provides a good picture of how each husband is to treat his wife, loving himself in loving her, and how each wife is to honor her husband.

As you can see, God clearly has great plans for us in marriage. He wants women to understand and support our husbands in ways that show support for Christ.” How do we show our support for Christ? We pray, we learn about His ways, we align ourselves with the things we see Christ doing so we don’t damage His reputation. Are we doing that with our husbands? Are we taking time to pray for them, learn about what he is interested in and what things are dear to his heart? Are we aligning ourselves with him and showing our support by making sure we build up our husbands instead of tearing him down? Hmmm… And men: is everything you’re doing bringing out the best in your wife? Do your words evoke her beauty? Are you helping to make her whole by loving her sacrificially and going all out for her?

Uh-oh…I can see both spouses squirming in their seats right now.

God has given us a “love marked by giving, not getting.” What time, resources, or energy have you given your spouse this week that shows how much you love him or her? Think….anything? THAT is how Christ loves the church…He gives everything of Himself in order for her benefit. And the church responds by putting her faith in Him and showing respect for the love He’s given and the sacrifice He’s made, gladly submitting to His leadership. It is a beautiful thing born of mutual trust. That’s how God keeps His covenant with us. And that is how we are to keep our covenant as well. 

“…Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together.” -Jesus, (Mark 10:8-9)

Our Story, Part 4: The Un-Wedding

So…after all it took to figure out that God was indeed knitting us together as a partnership, we spent a summer falling in love. It was a strange thing, nothing like the other “in-love” episodes I thought I’d had in the past. It was totally different because this time God was doing all the work and we were enjoying Him and each other. The first day of September in 2003, he proposed. It was not super romantic. It was not how I’d always imagined in my dreams…but it was just perfect anyway! We started planning the wedding details for the following May 15th, at the little church where we had met. I found THE dress. We booked THE honeymoon. Things were moving a long nicely. However, there was something else stirring in us at the same time. Something that was not related to the wedding plans or any of that. Since we’d been spending all this time together and talking about what we wanted out of life and what we thought God had called us each to, we’d started to become a little restless. The church where we had met put a huge emphasis on the teaching of scripture and on each person’s individual committment to Christ, which was wonderful for us because we needed both of those things at that time more than anything. But it seemed as if our personal lives in Christ were moving at warp speed, and every day was a new exciting adventure to find out how we would live in this new reality that God had given each of us. We started noticing that there was a whole lot more to this being-a-Christian deal than coming to church every Sunday and not cussin’ anymore. So we started really questioning many of the things that were being said and done in that small fellowship around us, and trying to plug in and do things that we were pretty darn sure that Jesus would have been doing if He found Himself there at that place and time. Without going into a ton of details and creating readable gossip, I will say only this: our efforts to mesh with what we saw Jesus and His followers doing in the bible didn’t go over very well at that particular church. The pastor and elders apparently didn’t appreciate the “new” things we were doing and I guess thought we were rocking the boat a bit too much. So we knew that although this had been a good place for us to begin, it was definitely not where we would stay and grow. We needed a body of believers that were, for lack of a sweeter term, more consistent with what we were learning in the bible. We ended up beginning our search for a new church, and within a short period of time we had found the one. I remember walking into what would become our lovely church family, and the first thing I noticed was a guy right in the middle of the main auditorium who was tattooed completely from his neck down, to the point where I thought he was wearing a long-sleeved shirt, but it was a living mural of tattoos all down both arms. That tattooed dude had his hands raised high in worship, and he was thoroughly comfortable in every way. I remember thinking, if that guy can worship here and no one is looking at him as if he’s done something utterly wrong, then I know this is the place for me. There was too much of the gotta-get-cleaned-up-for-the-Lord dogma at the starter church, and this fervent worshipper would have been asked to cover his artwork with a nice button-up shirt. Not here. This was my kind of place.

Now of course that was not the only reason we loved the place, but it was my first memory. We started attending there occasionally and sort of felt like we were “cheating” on our old church. We had planned to keep attending the old church until we got married, then we were going to officially make our move. Unfortunately some other things, more blatant things that disregarded scriptural teachings entirely, cropped up and we decided we could no longer sit under that particular teacher at the old church. So we left. We left quietly without a big dramatic production, and although a few people gave us their blessing, it was clear that we were being treated as “backsliders.” The general feeling was that most people thought we were going to another church so we could bend the rules and not hold so strictly to the laws in the bible. Um…not at all. We were going because we knew that Jesus wanted us to be somewhere with consistently sound biblical teaching and people with servant’s hearts, not to just sit being satisfied with wearing the right clothes and knowing when to say “amen” out loud. We needed more, and that’s just what we got.

Even though we had left on amicable terms and all, it was clear we were a bit on the shunned side. All communication (which was little anyway) about our wedding plans stopped abruptly. We were still scheduled to be married at the old church building and even had one of the members catering for us and everything. Then we found out that construction had been delayed to the summer because of some building inspection issues, which messed everything up for us! Here we had a nonrefundable honeymoon scheduled for May 16th and we weren’t going to have a place to get married on May 15th! I was a bit freaked out to say the least, but we started trying to figure out what we could do. There was no way to book another place within 2 months notice for a wedding, nor did we really have the money to do so. We decided to go ahead and get married in a small ceremony and move the “big” wedding to the fall, when the church construction was sure to be finished. That would allow us to be “legal” to go on our honeymoon, but allow us to still have the big wedding celebration with all of our loved ones. That’s just what we did, and we began our married, blissful life together, and we still had the big ceremony to look forward to.

Until…we found out some bad news. Actually we found it out in a roundabout way, because no one bothered to mention it to us directly. Even though the church construction had already been delayed several months, the ceremony we had planned was for late September, and the church STILL wasn’t finished. So after basically demanding to see the inside of the church (because people were still telling us not to worry, because it “should” be done in time) I went in and saw a shell of a building with no drywall or flooring. The ceremony was in 2 weeks. There was no way it could be done. By this time I was pretty livid, and there were some other things that ensued in conversations with the starter church’s staff that really lit me up. The impression I got was that since we had left that fellowship, no one felt the need to communicate with us about the fact that our wedding ceremony wasn’t happening there. Talk about feeling unimportant. So basically I had to draft a postcard that said something to the effect of “We were looking forward to celebrating it with all of you at the ceremony on September 25th. However, due to circumstances beyond our control with the location of the ceremony, it will have to be canceled. Although we are disappointed that we won’t get to share this special day with you, please know that we are happily enjoying our first few months of marriage.” Nice. Even though we tried to word it so that people wouldn’t think we had split up, we still got some phone calls from concerned friends and family. I don’t know how many times I had to say “no, really, we are fine…great, actually” and stumble around an explanation that wouldn’t end in me bad-mouthing the people the I felt had done us wrong.

For a while I was mad. Even a little bit bitter. I mean, how do you take someone’s most important life event and not even bother to communicate the issues that would certainly affect it? I wonder if any of them ever feel the least bit bad about screwing us over to the point where we had to actually cancel our ceremony. I never walked down the aisle. I never held my bouquet, which I made myself and had been safely stored away for it’s big day. I never got to cut the cake and wonder if Todd was going to smash it in my face for the world to witness (he SO would have, by the way!) My niece never got to adorn the aisle with flower petals. I never even got to wear my dress. THE dress. Sigh.

But even though I never had the chance to have my princess wedding day, the fact is that I still got married. And in fact, the marriage is the most important part, not the wedding. I’ve come to realize that too many people put a lot of emphasis on their wedding, but don’t put much thought into their marriage. So when it comes down to it, I can see that we focus on the marriage and not so much on the wedding (or the un-wedding, as it came to be) and even though I never got to be a princess for a day, I most definitely, undeniably, am living happily ever after with my prince.   🙂

Our Story, Part 3: The Struggle

So, at this point Todd and I had been on one not-really-a-date, and we’d spent hours talking and getting to know an incredible amount of information about one another (okay, mostly an incredible amount of information about him) but either way, something strange was beginning… a struggle that would last many long weeks (maybe months, I can’t quite recall)

After that first non-date, we simply remained friends and would talk at church and quite a bit in the new believer’s Sunday school class. The next several months were very blurry to me. What I mean by that is that my mind was such a hurricane of new and strange feelings, thoughts, knowledge, scriptures, and emotions, that I feel like my feet never touched the ground. I was learning so much about the bible and from the bible in such a short period of time (which was a good thing) that I was so eager to apply it all to my new little young life in Christ (also a good thing) but I wasn’t sure how to fit that in with everything else I already knew (the hard part!) And with this new person in my life who was a friend but not a “boyfriend” and who I clearly wanted to spend all my time with, but not “date” I wasn’t sure what to do or what to call this relationship. We had spent a ton of time talking on the phone and hanging out getting ice cream after church or whatever… but I wasn’t sure what was happening or where this was all going. Then it dawned on me that since we hadn’t really talked about it, maybe Todd was thinking that this whole strange relationship we had going on was a, you know, relationship…. and that freaked me out. I’d just ended several years of dating way too many men for all the wrong reasons, and I was just starting to find out who I was according to the Creator of the universe. I didn’t want to mess up yet another guy with good intentions and lead him into thinking that we were an item or that we were going to be. I prayed about it but wasn’t sure what to say to God, because I didn’t know who Todd was to me. I didn’t yet know that I could pray that God would just show me what role Todd was supposed to pray in my life. It seems so silly now, but in all my ignorance, He really did show me very clearly, even then. I just chose to ignore it.

So I called Todd and asked him to meet me before the evening service that Sunday so we could talk about our “relationship.” He agreed and when we meet, I quickly realized that he had been struggling with the same thoughts about where this whole thing was going and if it was appropriate for two people of the opposite sex to be spending so much time together. I mean, after all, people would talk, wouldn’t they? So we both agreed that neither of us was looking for any type of boyfriend/girlfriend situation and that in order to avoid all confusion (on our parts and everyone else’s, I guess) we would remain friends at church but we would no longer see each other outside of church or spend all our time talking on the phone like we had been. There, it was final.

ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha…….

An agonizingly long week or so after that very stern decision not to see each other outside of church, I found my clammy hands picking up the phone, half-dialing, then slamming it back down again several times. Finally I dialed the whole number and waited for him to pick up. I wish I could remember the sound of his voice on the other end. I wish I could remember if it was as eager as my own…but I can’t. All I remember was a very short conversation which ended in me saying “do you wanna hang out?” and him saying “yes.” Then I was in my car and on my way to him. Again, very few exact memories come back to me, but I do remember walking around in the park, getting mud on my jeans, laughing a LOT and basically having the best day of my entire life, all with this man. I knew then that all bets were off…I was hooked.

After that day we spent every waking moment together that we could. Our cell phone bills both exceeded $400 one month. We put hundreds of miles on our cars visiting each other since we lived 30 minutes apart.  He helped show me through scripture who I was and what God had in mind for me when I was created. I helped him understand years of emotional junk that had built up in his life and was now being sifted through. We both started to help each other learn to love another human being in the way that God loves us. It was (and still is) difficult and messy, but nothing’s ever been more real.

Next time: The Un-Wedding.

Our Story, Part 2: How It All Began

Many folks have already heard our unlikely love story, or speculate that they already know. But here’s how it really happened:

I became a Christian in October of 2002 after a long fight. God finally allowed me to hit rock-bottom the year before and from there I had nowhere to look but up, which I’m sure He knew was the only way I would finally slow down and listen to Him. So once I finally surrendered, I began attending the church where I had pledged my life to Christ, and after going a while I started attending a Sunday school class for new believers. It was kind of a “Being a Christian 101” which is what I really figured that I needed. My brother in law went with me, although he’d been a Christian his whole life, but I think he somehow wanted to help me find my way and help me get comfortable in the class since I didn’t really know anyone. There were a few other folks in the class, one of which was a man named Todd, who was not at all memorable to me other than the fact that he seemed to have an incredible memory for Scripture, which impressed me. But that was the only thing I was thinking of him at the time. So I attended the bible class every week with my brother in law, and every week I saw Todd and thought the same thing about him. He was a nice guy but we never talked or anything like that, I was too busy dealing with all the new stuff there was to know about being a Christian. I remember thinking to myself: this guy is gonna be a preacher because he was so great at quoting scripture. So one day I noticed that he was at the altar praying what seemed to be a prayer of wrestling with God, because he was so engrossed and so emotional that I knew it wasn’t just an everyday prayer. I remembered I had seen him doing this a lot lately, so after church when I saw him, something in me decided to make one of my classic dumb comments and I said “What’s wrong, are you getting your call to preach?” He said “No, I’m going through a divorce.” OOOPS. Divorce? I didn’t even know he was married. I’d never seen his wife, and besides…Christian people weren’t supposed to get divorces, right? Anyway, in that very awkward moment I stammered and blurted out something to the effect of “I’m so sorry to hear that” followed by some more awkwardness and a lot of “uh, um, etc” on my part. I probably said some other stupid and unhelpful things, then my big finish was something like “well, if you ever need to talk or, um, anything, uh…” [this is where I started hearing that voice in my head saying shut up, Krysten, just SHUT UP!!] “…if you need to talk, maybe we could grab a coffee or, uh, something. Well, bye…!” STUPID STUPID STUPID. You know how you say things that you don’t really mean just to get out of a situation? Well that’s what that whole thing was all about. I walked away thinking only “Glad that’s over. I’m such an idiot.” I wasn’t thinking of the poor dude who I just forced to tell me that he was going through a really difficult thing. Yikes… I suck.

Sometime later (I have no idea how long it was) I talked to Todd again and he said “Remember when you said that we could grab coffee and talk sometime?” I thought to myself…. “uh, no….I said that?” But there was no way out of it, so we set up a time to get coffee, but somehow the timing wouldn’t work out right so we ended up planning to have dinner. On a Saturday. Just the two of us. So now I’m thinking…I hope this guy doesn’t think we’re going on a date. Cuz we’re NOT. He’s not even cute. And even if he was, he’s way older than me (7 years seemed WAY older!) and he’s going through a divorce…this is so not my thing. I really hope he’s not on the rebound and thinks we’re going on a date. Turns out that he was also hoping that I wasn’t looking for a date. Who knows why he actually wanted to talk to me. I think at the time, he was probably just a little lonely and wanted someone new to talk to. So we went to a restaurant and while we ordered our Italian food, I started the conversation with “so, tell me about yourself…” and for the next hour or so, he did. He told me everything about himself. EVERYTHING. Apparently this guy doesn’t get modern American social cues…. but I listened and finished my meal way before he did because he was busy talking and all that. But by the end of the dinner, I amazingly still wanted to hang out and talk to him. I don’t even know why, because he pretty much had told me everything about himself that there was to know!

From there, we went to a little coffee shop that hosted local Christian artists. Turns out the feature was a duo of teenage Christian rapper…not exactly the right cup of tea for either of us…but I goofed around and sang & danced with the young dudes, and Todd squirmed a bit in his chair and tried to stifle his laughter. We talked some more and he drove me back to my apartment. Walking me to the door like the gentleman that he was, I couldn’t help thinking what a great time we’d just had, even though everything had pointed toward an inevitable yawn of an evening. God has a funny way of exceeding our expectations and turning our circumstances around when we never would have expected it.

Next time: The Struggle.