Friday, May 31, 2013

A Missing Piece?

Over the last couple of years I've heard and read a lot about different perspectives on the benefits/detriments to dating. Recently I've been thinking about how my opinion on such matters has changed since Brandon and I got engaged - and many of the retrospective pieces of advice are much more understandable. 

From an early age I remember being overly concerned about getting married and having a family. I longed to be a wife and mother and I was scared of the possibility of that never happening. As a result I started seeking and desiring a relationship strongly, especially as I entered high school. I think really, I was looking for confirmation that I was someone who a man could want, that I had that wife potential. I was incredibly insecure about who I was and my worth. Throughout this period in my life I should mention that my parents were incredibly supportive and encouraging. However, I was thinking the other day that I wish during that time someone had encouraged me to put more energy towards my relationship with God rather than striving for a boyfriend. I was so focused on validating my worth through earthly relationships that I wasn't fully giving my heart to God and fully devoting myself to him.

Senior year of High School - 2006

The reality is that at that time I was no where near ready for marriage and consequently shouldn't even have considered entering a dating relationship. BUT, my parents and one of my brothers/SIL met each other in high school - so it was always a possibility in my mind that I should be keeping my eyes open.

"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us." 
Ephesians 3:20

Enter my college years. My attitude didn't really change during my early college years. I attended a small Christian college and there were frequent discussions about this being the perfect time to meet your future spouse and how much your chances would diminish after college (inferring that it would be unlikely that you would be in a place with so many other Christian singles at the same time). My freshman year of college I had my first boyfriend - a guy I actually had known several years earlier. In reality, I was much more enamored with the idea of having an official boyfriend than I was with the guy himself! I gave him my first kiss.

Junior year of college brought more challenges. At this point I lived in a house with 4 other girls - 2 who were engaged, one who was "pearled" (pre-engagement) and the fourth who had a serious boyfriend. It was a long, hard year, during which I often felt very lonely and angry. However, I should mention that this was also a time of significant spiritual growth for me - I was growing closer to God and fully believed I was focused on putting him first in my life.

Junior year of college with my housemates

Then came senior year and another man entered my life. Those of you who have read my blog for awhile know about Justin - a man who was a critical part of my life for nearly 3 years. For a long time I convinced myself that he was the one God had planned for me. But please notice those words....I convinced myself. I gave him my first "I love you."

"Don't let your happiness depend on something you may lose."
C.S. Lewis

It was only after things ended with Justin and I that I really realized my problem. I was still coveting marriage. I was still putting my desire for marriage before my desire to commit myself fully to the Lord - to accept whatever plan he had for my life, whether that was to serve him as a single, or as a wife. I needed to say no to marriage and yes to God before his plan was revealed.

Honestly, I still don't know what I think about dating. I don't think there is anything wrong with it - although I do believe that one shouldn't consider dating another unless they are in a position where they are ready to get married. Why? Because the reality is, as cliche as it may sound, I did give parts of my heart away to men other than my future husband. Mind you, I have saved alot for Brandon :) but I still wish he could have it all. For me, one of the hardest things was separating myself from a man and a family who I had grown incredibly close to.

But yet I still can't say that I am fully against dating. Both Brandon and I dated other people before we met each other and were both very aware of what we were looking for in a spouse. For us, key factors were faith, communication, and the importance of relationships. I know many people tend to make the argument that dating and breaking up is like practicing for divorce. While I can see their point, especially in today's society where teens and pre-teens are "dating" and moving on at such a young age,  I still see a benefit in getting to know a person and ensuring where their priorities lie before making a marriage commitment - however I think you can do that without getting involved with a lot of the baggage that is typically associated with dating.

When Brandon and I started dating we were very cautious. Our first conversation included a long discussion about how if we entered into a relationship it was with the intentional end goal of getting married. We both spent time in prayer and talking to others before we talked to each other. We set strict physical boundaries for ourselves and waited to say "I love you" until we were engaged. 

Last month with Brandon, my fiance

At the end of the day, I don't regret my past relationships - but I can't deny the hurt and sadness that has come with them. 

"The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him" 
Lamentations 3:25

Thursday, May 30, 2013

#5!



Michael Plantagenet H officially arrived Tuesday night! He made his way into he world incredibly quickly and at a solid 8 lbs with tons of black hair.

Now if anyone actually knows the origin of Michael's middle name I will be incredibly impressed :)

My future brother in law John is actually a medieval history professor at a college in Baltimore. Recently he finished writing his second book on Henry II. From what I understand a Plantagenet was the royal family's name at the time of he reign of Henry II. 

We can't wait to meet this little man in person!




Monday, May 20, 2013

Meet My Ladies

One of the things I am most excited about the wedding is the incredible women who will be standing up for me and helping with the wedding day (of course we have some incredible men participating as well :)).

So without further ado....

Matron of Honor: Jessica - Jess has become one of my dearest and sweetest friends. We met when I moved back to metro-Detroit to attend law school and Jess married her husband and moved from Minnesota to join him in Michigan. Most notably, Jess and her husband (who is standing up for Brandon) are the ones responsible for introducing Brandon and me! Jess is the one who can make me laugh the hardest, who I never run out of things to talk about with, and who has been an incredible example of what it means to be a godly wife.




Bridesmaids:

Kirsten: Kirsten is my oldest (time-wise) friend. We met in Sunday school around the age of 6 - and continue to cause just a little mischief together over the next several years. I like to attribute the success of our friendship partially to the fact that we balance eachother out so well - i.e. Kirsten can dance and has rhythm (I don't), Kirsten can sing (I can lip sync). The challenges and celebrations Kirsten and I have experienced over the last several years have only brought us closer together - in fact, it was Kirsten who convinced me that marrying an older man was a good idea!



Stacie: Stacie and I met in 2006 during our freshman year at college. Really, the credit for their friendship can be traced back to our brothers who were friends and had sent us both to school with instructions to keep an eye out for each other. Stacie is the friend who has always challenged me to step out of my box and enjoy the little things - like extra sprinkles, a walk around the block, and an extra hard workout. She is truly one of the kindest, most sincere women I have ever met. 



Allison: Allie is married to my brother Todd and my SIL. Although considering Allie has been a part of my life for more years than she hasn't, the "in-law" part is really just a formality. Allie was one of the first people to know that I was falling for a man 4 states away and encouraged me that I wasn't too crazy! Allie is also the incredible mom of my first nephew, Isaac.



Heidi: Heidi is married to my oldest brother Nate. Like Allie, Heidi has been an integral part of my life since middle school. Heidi (who is a Minnesota native like Brandon)  has taught me about the art of couponing (although I am no where near as good as she is) and the incredible blessings that come with multi-racial adoption. Heidi is also the amazingly creative, hardworking mom to my 2 very energetic nieces!

Holly: Holly is Brandon's older sister and my soon to be sister-in-law. Before we ever met, I had heard countless stories about Holly and the influence she had on Brandon. Holly and her family live in Maryland and I had the chance to get to know her over Christmas, and then again during my spring break when Brandon and I spent several days visiting Holly in Baltimore. Holly is the mother of 2-year-old Gianna and a baby boy due any day!


Flower Girls

Sasha: Sasha will always have a special place in my heart because she made me an aunt 6 years ago! Sasha loves all things art and has recently mastered kindergarten (in fact, Brandon and I think her quick wits and strong debate skills might put her in line to be the next family lawyer....). Sasha has been eagerly anticipating the day when she finally gets to be flower girl!



Alexis: Lexi is my purple-loving, shoe-obsessed, 4-year-old niece. she recently decided that she is not afraid of Brandon anymore and might even dance with him at the wedding. Most of all, Lexi is a true bundle of joy with an award-winning smile and big brown eyes that will melt your heart!

Gianna: 2-year-old Gianna is full of sweetness. She shares her Uncle Brandon's love of music and although she will be our tiniest flower girl, she is full of excitement and personality. Gianna blew me away when she mastered saying my full name before she even turned 2!



Wedding Coordinator/Personal Assistant: Amanda - Amanda and I have been friends since we met at church in 7th grade. I am SO grateful she agreed to help with the wedding process as she is one of the only people I truly trust to execute things in the same detail-obsessed manner that I would :)

Mistress of Ceremonies: Jamie - Jamie and her husband Paul are going to be our Master and Mistress of ceremonies. I met Jamie through Brandon's friendship with her husband Paul and she has become one of my new favorite people! Jamie has a wonderfully welcoming and cheerful spirit.



Marriage Counseling: Melissa - Melissa has been one of the most important people in my life since my early high school years when she became my mentor. Just this past weekend Melissa's husband Justin (my former youth pastor) agreed to marry Brandon and me, and over the next several moths they will also be doing our pre-marital counseling. Justin and Melissa have one of the most beautiful marriage relationships and are incredible parents to their 4 young children. Brandon and I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to learn from them as we begin our lives as husband and wife.

The two most important women who will be by my side are of course my mom and my future mother-in-law. But they deserve a post all of their own, so I'll save that for another day!

Friday, May 17, 2013

A Little Mountain Time

Before graduation Brandon and I headed (well met up) down to Colorado to spend a couple of days with some friends of his. Originally the plan was to stay at another friend's condo in the mountains with several other couples, however God works things out for the best! When several other couples were unable to make it and our housing plans fell through I was feeling kindof skeptical about the trip when we arrived. However, everything ended up being perfect and we had such a great time with Paul and Jamie. It actually ended up snowing in the town where we were initially planning on staying....so we avoided that and used Denver as our main hub and took several day trips. (btw, the Denver airport is officially one of the most inconvenient places....who puts an airport 10+ miles off the highway??)

There is nothing like looking out onto the mountains! (well other than looking out onto the ocean :) )

We arrived on Thursday morning and Brandon and I spent the day together - we met up with some of his collegues in the area for lunch and then just drove around the mountains for several hours, finally ending up at a little local coffee shop where he answered emails and I worked on wedding planning :)


Friday morning we hit the gym with Paul and Jamie. This might not sound that exciting, but Brandon and I were both dying after a mile - we blame this on the altitude change, although I'm sure you could easily just say that we both need to get in better shape! The boys spent some time together that afternoon while Jamie and I bonded over her and Paul's wedding video (seriously one of the most beautiful, heartfelt ceremonies I've ever seen). Paul and Jamie's church was having a Parent's Night Out, so we dropped their 2-year-old daughter Aftyn off and spent the rest of the night exploring downtown Denver.

On this great street in Denver - the lights draping the street were so cool! (Ignore the poor photo quality...)


Paul and Brandon



Saturday was our roadtrip day! We spent the morning/afternoon in Boulder and then continued up to Estes Park. Originally our plan had been to go up into Rocky Mountain National Park, but the road we wanted to take was closed until Memorial Day. So we improvised and walked around the town (which is made up of probably 11 taffy stores, 6 ice cream shops, and 3+ places that take your picture in that old-fashioned western style). The plan was to drop Aftyn out and head out for dinner - but by the time we got home we were absolutely exhausted! So Chinese food and a movie it was :)

Aftyn was a great traveler all day Saturday. When we were walking down the street she kept calling out to her daddy to hold her hand. Too precious!


Beautiful rainbow after the storms

Brandon and I headed home on Sunday - but not before we had a chance to celebrate a little Mother's Day with Jamie.

The best part of the trip was hands-down spending time getting to know Paul and Jamie. Brandon and I have both spent a significant amount of time getting to know each others friends....and there are some we just tend to click with better than others. When we hung out with Paul and Jamie for the first time (in December when they were visiting family in Minnesota) both Brandon and I knew that our friendship with them would play a significant role in our future.

One thing that really stood out to me was how welcome I felt. Sometimes it is a little awkward being the girlfriend/fiancee introduced to long-time friends. But with Paul and Jamie everything has been totally natural - Jamie was especially welcoming and we bonded so quickly! It was such a great reminder to check my own attitude when I am introduced to newcomers - a welcoming attitude can make all the difference!

Jamie, Aftyn, and me

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Pomp and Circumstance

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters,
Colossians 3:23

Last night my law school journey came to an end. Commencement was held in the city's beautiful orchestra hall and the evening itself ended up being much more emotional than I ever expected!


3 years ago I walked into law school orientation naive, excited, and slightly petrified of what was to come. 



Alot of things have changed in the last 3 years. There are parts of law school that I have loved - the academic challenges, the opportunity to learn and debate the issues our government was founded on, and meeting many inspirational people who have committed themselves to fighting for and protecting 



There are also parts of law school that I can't wait to get away from! The often extreme stress and being surrounded by people who are positive they are "right" and can't wait to debate you if you challenge their argument!



This was my first public school graduation. Going into it, I was curious as to how it would be different from the religious-centered commencement programs I'd been part of in the past. To be honest, I thought it was pretty fluffy. Apparently, prayer is easily replaced by thanking everyone under the sun who is NOT God! However, the keynote speaker was a local federal district court judge, and I very much enjoyed her speech.


However, throughout the entire ceremony I couldn't stop thinking about the real reasons that I had made it to commencement, and the real people that were deserving of thanks. My professors were great,  but without my faith and familial support I never would have made it through.




Brandon: Brandon claims he got the easiest end of the stick because he only came into my life during this last year of law school (which is supposed to be your lightest year). But the truth is that he has helped me manage my stress better than anyone else. Brandon attended law school as well (7 years ago :)) and it has been so helpful to have someone who has gone through the same things and operates in a similar manner by my side. I love this man and am so grateful for him!



My oldest brother Nate represented my siblings at the ceremony (we all met up for dinner afterwards). My siblings were my rocks throughout the pass 3 years. I can't even count the number of texts, emails, and phone calls I had encouraging me through 6 exam seasons. They've given me hugs, let me vent, and most crucially sat me down and told me no way was I going to quit (when I was 95% sure I was after my 1st year).




I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me
Philippians 4:13



My parents: My biggest cheerleaders, my prayer warriors, my biggest encouragers, my constant support system.....Words truly cannot describe how amazing these 2 people are, or how much I love them. 



My grandparents: My grandparents, especially my grandpa, have also been a huge part of my support team. There were times I didn't think they would make it to my law school graduation, but to have them there and part of the celebration meant the world to me. 





After the ceremony we went to one of my favorite seafood places in the city that is right on the river (that is actually Canada behind Brandon and me). The rest of my siblings joined us and it was a great time of celebration, toasts, and tears (mostly on my part) :)





Now onto the BAR!



Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Preparing Our Hearts for Marriage

In just over 8 months Brandon and I will commit to each other to love, honor, and cherish one another until death.


We take the vows we will make very seriously.

Although we won't begin pre-marital counseling for another couple of months, we have tried to prepare ourselves for our future marriage as much as possible. For us, that has meant spending the last few months reading through pre-marital books and devotions together, talking about everything under the sun (i.e. money, children, careers, home-life, church-life, etc.), and seeking the advice and direction of more mature, godly couples who have marriages that we admire (i.e. good communication skills, solid faith, respect).

One of my favorite things that we have increased is the amount that we pray for each other. During the period of time we were dating, we would end every visit by praying together. That became a really special time for us - but we both felt that we wanted to increase the time we spent specifically praying for each other. Not only did we individually make a conscientious attempt to spend more time in prayer for our future spouse and our time together, but we also end each night praying together on the phone. (Sidenote - I highly recommend the Power of a Praying Wife. It came recommended to me by several women I respect and I have really enjoyed it so far and it has been a great tool in directing me as to how I should be praying for Brandon).

The wedding planning can be so exciting - but we don't want to allow ourselves to get caught up in that too much. After all, the end of our wedding day will just be the beginning of our life together as husband and wife - and that is something we want to put a lot of effort into making it the best it can possibly be!

Friday, May 3, 2013

The Dress!

Somehow April flew by - a fact which I was completely grateful! Final exams have finished, and after 3 long years I have officially FINISHED law school! (well assuming I passed all my last set of exams!) Graduation isn't for another week+ and my bar-prep classes don't start until the 20th, so in the meantime my life has become wedding planning central! I know that studying for the bar will take up the majority of my time for the next 3 months, so I wanted to make sure that I had as much accomplished as possible before I started studying.

The biggest decision this week has been that I found my DRESS! No pictures yet, because it is going to be a surprise to all, except my parents, my future mother-in-law, and my bridesmaids (and my brother who snuck into the final decision meeting).

I always laughed when I heard people say that they bought the first dress that they tried on. Well......so did I :) My mom and I set out for a day of shopping yesterday, thinking that we would just get an idea of what I was looking for and then head back out with my sisters-in-law in the near future. However, I fell in love with the first dress and had it narrowed down to 2 after visiting the first bridal salon. After an afternoon of visiting another dress shop and looking/price comparing more online, I was still confident that the first dress I'd tried on was the one. (that combined with the fact that I knew I really needed to order my dress within the next week, as we are down to about 8 months from the wedding, and the fact that the store was willing to do additional price negotiating if we bought it on the same day as my first visit to their store).

So I made a couple of phone calls and frantically shot my matron of honor pictures to get her opinion. My dad, SIL, brother, and nieces joined my mom and I back at the first salon for a final decision - and the vote was unanimous :)

Not only am I excited, but I'm relieved as well. I was nervous about finding something that I felt was modest, elegant, and that I felt comfortable in. I'm confident I met all 3 goals! The price was a little over what I had originally budgeted for a dress, but after a few phone calls I quickly realized that I could borrow a veil and jewelry from several friends - which gave me a little extra funds to shuffle-around.

And just to make the day a little more exciting, while stopped at a red light on our way to the 2nd bridal store, my mom and I were hit by a 20-wheel semi truck carrying a load of bricks. Apparently the driver saw the light was green and then looked down at his delivery sheet. When he looked back up the light was red and our car was just sitting there. Luckily, he managed to swerve his truck partially only the lawn next to us (taking out 2 street signs and tearing up the grass in the promise) and we walked away from the accident completely fine and only needing to get the bumper on my car replaced! Praise the Lord! However, I was driving and my accident record has not been so great in the past....so I have officially now been labeled the "worst" and "unluckiest" driver in the family!