Two years ago this past weekend, I put on white dress, took my dad’s arm, and walked down a grassy “aisle” to marry the man of my dreams. It was a sweet, slow day full of joyful moments with people from all the different parts of our lives and our story. Today, in honor of my sweet husband who makes my world a whole lot brighter, I want to go back and share how our love story started. Some of you might already know this story but for me, it just never seems to get old!
Two years ago this week, Jordan and I were soaking in the final crazy days before our wedding. As friends and family started to arrive in town, the whirlwind of a wedding weekend began. We set up the barn, had our picnic rehearsal dinner at a local park, and then finally jumped into our wedding day. There were so many things I loved about how our wedding turned out. It was exactly like I had dreamed, and I still love flipping through our wedding pictures and video to remember all the little moments and details of the day.
When we look back on our wedding, our favorite part is all the ways that day told our story. Our wedding was uniquely us – a mixture of all the things, people, places, and ideas that defined our story and the story we were about to begin. While we had pulled in elements from weddings and styles we liked, we felt that our wedding represented who we are in so many ways .
There were a lot of things that went into planning our wedding day and making it ours. These five wedding planning tips below are the things I learned from planning our Memorial Day weekend, barn wedding two whole years ago, and I would do all of these things again in a heartbeat!
“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”
The first time I remember feeling shame, that gnawing feeling in the pit of my stomach that something’s wrong with me, was in middle school. I struggled in my relationships with girl friends, and remember one particular conversation with a girl friend who told me she didn’t want me around when the boy she liked was there because I was “too much,” and when I was my full self I was “obnoxious.” I know that those words came out of a place of her own insecurity and fears, but they impacted me deeply.
I started to believe that who I am is obnoxious, that I needed to tone down my personality, my happiness, my intelligence, and myself in general to be liked and even loved by others. I desperately sought attention from boys, believing that giving them my body and my heart was the only way to overcome my “obnoxious” personality and be “loved” the way I was longing for. When I compromised my boundaries and values to make them happy, I felt an even deeper sense of disappointment and shame.
At the risk of sounding cliché….this girl LOVES chocolate. I am at my happiest when I have a bowl of something sweet, especially if that something sweet involves ice cream of any kind. When we traveled through Europe last summer, I made it my personal goal to have at least one ice cream cone per day (quite an easy goal to accomplish, I might add).
I especially love having dessert after a meal. It’s the perfect way to keep people at the table, to ensure that conversation lingers long until all that’s left on the table are crumbs, sticky plates, and almost-empty wine glasses.
I love baking sweet treats and trying new recipes, but this twist on a boxed brownie mix is one of my favorites. A pan of these babies has yet to last more than 24 hours in our house, and seems to be one of my husband’s favorite breakfast snacks. When I’m having people over last minute or don’t want to take the time to bake a dessert that requires more time, I almost always throw these in the oven. They take less than 5 minutes to prepare and comes out gooey and delicious (especially if you are a chronic under-baker like me).
“Marriage has the power to set the course of your life as a whole. If your marriage is strong, even if all the circumstances in your life around you are filled with trouble and weakness, it won’t matter. You will be able to move out into the world in strength.”
Tim Keller – Meaning of Marriage
When Jordan and I got married, we knew we weren’t signing up for a lifetime of romance and forever happiness. We were lucky to have couples of all ages loving us, asking us hard questions, and speaking truth to us.. As we spent time with these people, one thing consistently stood out: these couples whose love had stood the test of time, tragedy, and trials of all sorts firmly believed that their marriages had a much bigger purpose than their “happiness.” These people trusted that their marriage was something God would use to shape them, to draw them to Him, and to paint a picture to the world of His love, joy, and commitment.
After the chaos of the wedding faded and the daily realities of marriage began to sink in, we wanted to revisit the things we had admired in those married couples who had counseled and inspired us. We decided to spend some time processing our dreams, values, and goals for our marriage, hoping that through writing out these thoughts, we could come up with a mission statement that summarized a bigger picture and purpose for our marriage.
We sat down together and started to brainstorm, focusing mainly on these questions:
- Ideally, how do we want to relate to each other? What action words, ideas, and concepts repeat as we describe what we want our marriage to look like?
- Who are some couple whose marriages we admire? What do we admire about them? How do we feel when we walk into their home or spend time with them and why do they make us feel that way?
- What things or ideals do we value in life in general? How do we want our marriage to express these values to each other and to other people?
- When other people walk into our home and sit around our table, how do we want them to feel? When they get into their car to drive away, what do we want them to say or think as they leave?
When we were looking for a house, one of my biggest priorities was a big, open kitchen. I learned to cook in our tiny apartment kitchens and was tired of stacking cutting boards, bowls, and pots on top of each other in an effort to get multiple dishes cooked at once. When we found our current house, the kitchen was one of my favorite parts.
This May marks three years since I graduated college, but boy does it feel like a lifetime. In some ways, these three years have been a blur of wedding planning, learning to work full-time, and doing all those “grownup” things nobody warns you about. I’ve gotten married, traveled to Europe, taught in several different schools, and done a whirlwind of things since I graduated three years ago.
But in other ways, these last few years have been incredibly slow. I’ve wrestled with deep questions of who I am, where my value and identity come from, and what it looks like to find fullness and joy in a grownup world that often just feels routine. That struggle led me to counseling last year, and every day is another battle to choose joy in a world that invites me to choose sadness, cynicism, and hopelessness.
As I see all of your cap and gown pictures in my newsfeed, I remember how surreal that day was for me. I think I expected to feel different, to feel like I was somehow the more grownup, “educated” version of myself, but I still just felt like me. More than the hours of sitting on a sweaty lawn chair listening to way too many names, the moments that stand out to me from that season the most are the slow goodbyes over those few weeks in May.
I have never been a dog person. I am horribly allergic to cats, and on doctor’s orders, my family didn’t get a dog in case I developed an allergy to them as well. So when I got married to my dog-loving, dog-wrestling, and dog-snuggling husband, I had a feeling we’d have to meet in the middle somewhere. That somewhere came in the form of a sweet little black lab puppy named Olive.
We thought for months about adopting breeds of all kinds and were nervous to adopt from a shelter because it was a little unpredictable. This was a dog that we would bring babies home to, that our children would grow up with, and we wanted a dog who we would feel safe having around our future little ones. We ooh-ed and aah-ed over sweet puppies on shelter/rescue websites, and even got in contact with a few different breeders of labradoodles and whoodles, but couldn’t make up our minds if we were ready.
I had all sorts of irrational fears about getting a dog. I was afraid that the dog would somehow go back to its animal instincts and attack me in the middle of the night (I know….absurd. Can you tell I’d never had a pet?). I was afraid it would destroy our house, my clothes, all my favorite things. Perhaps most importantly, I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to love it like I hoped. I was scared I would tolerate having a little creature running around the house, but I wouldn’t experience the connection and love that people describe having with their animals.
Holy moly….I could not have been more wrong.
Before I shared my story of depression and counseling on Wednesday, I was a little nervous and praying some big prayers. I have gotten so much encouragement, wisdom, and hope from reading the stories and blogs of other people, but sharing my own story required a vulnerability that excited and scared me. I was hoping that sharing my story would encourage you all the way other blogs have encouraged me, and praying that maybe my taking a risk and admitting that life can be pretty stinking hard would make you feel free to do the same. And holy moly, folks, you blew me away.
My heart for this blog is that it be a place of Sobremesa, a place where we can share the joyful, the real, and the hard. This story is one of the hard ones (and like most hard stories, it is ultimately a story of hope). Thanks for joining me at the table.
My years in college were life-changing. I met women whose friendships taught me how to be loved and to love the sisters in my life, and whose daily encouragement got me through the many ups and downs of those years. I led Young Life for four years, and pursuing high school students wrecked me in the best of ways. At any given moment I felt like I could point to three or four things I felt like God was teaching me in that season. I cried more, laughed more, and grew more in my four years of college than any other season I can remember. It was incredibly hard, but incredibly good, and I wouldn’t trade those years for anything.
After a whirlwind summer living in Panama post-graduation, I moved to Kansas City and jumped right into my new “grownup” life there. I started working at a middle school during the day, taking grad classes several nights a week, and spending any free time learning to live in the same city as my formerly long-distance boyfriend. But even in the newness and excitement of a job, getting married, and settling into a life with my new husband, I longed for more. Where college had been a series of ups and downs, my new grownup life just felt…routine. I started to feel a growing indifference to spending time with God, and that indifference gradually became a bitterness and resentment that He had walked away from me, that he had stopped pursuing me the way He did in college.
I longed for more, for intimacy and fullness and joy, but my life felt routine and God seemed a million miles away. I longed to feel like I was making a difference, that who I was mattered in some bigger story. The intimacy I had experienced with God during college dwindled, and a growing bitterness and disappointment in Him took its place. I found myself crying in my car as I drove to work, unable to shake the heavy feelings of longing and emptiness. My mind would spin and spin until I had convinced myself that I would never experience fullness or freedom from shame, that my life and my story would never be what I longed for them to be. I kept teaching, kept going to church, and kept spending time with the people I love, but a current of sadness ran underneath it all.