Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Planning a life, not a wedding

On the night of my engagement, Ben and I were bombarded with congratulations, well wishes, and questions of the date and details about the wedding…all in the first few hours! We were running all over campus showing off the ring and calling friends and family to tell them the good news, and everyone kept asking about the planning when we had barely had a chance to think about such things. Now that the excitement has worn off a little and we’ve had time to think about details, it gets overwhelming very quickly. Just the other day I printed of a checklist…a 13 page checklist! Some of the things on the list are small, like envisioning the style of dress and shoes I want, to major decisions like invitations and reception halls. We went out and bought an accordion folder to store all the lists and paperwork, and this thing is already filling up! Planning is a lot of work! I think back to Kim Kardashian’s wedding, all the planning and money wasted on a marriage that never stood a chance and it makes me want to take a step back from all the details and planning of the wedding, and really focus on what’s happening. Ben and I aren’t planning for a wedding; we’re planning for a marriage. We’re planning a life together that is far more valuable than flowers that will wither, music notes that will fade away, cake that will dry up, and a dress that will be preserved and put away to admire down the road. I think this is the reason so many marriages don’t stand a chance these days-no one plans for the marriage!

To try to avoid this from happening, Ben and I have been reading through this book called “Things I Wish I’d Known Before We Got Married” by Gary Chapman. This author is a marriage counselor is known for his Five Love Languages. In the book he talks about the things he wished he and his wife knew when they were newlyweds that would have saved a lot of heartaches and prevented many fights from happening. (We started reading this book a few weeks before we were even engaged…I think I’m going to keep Ben foreverJ) I read through it once by myself, and knew this would be a great thing for us. When you’re young and in love, it’s hard to think about major disagreements and fights, but I refuse to go into this thinking it’s going to be happily ever after. Marriage is good and it’s going to be a great thing, but I know it’s not always going to make me feel warm and fuzzy. There will be days when I won’t want to roll over and say, “I’m sorry, you were right and I was wrong.” Right now I’m excited to throw our clothes together in the washer and dryer just because it will make us feel like a real family…I’m excited to fold his socks and underwear. (Sorry if that makes you feel weird hun J )But a few years down the road when I have cranky babies and toddlers running wild in the house, folding socks and underwear will probably begin to feel a whole lot less romantic. When we’re up late talking about our future, we talk excitedly about learning to cook together, and being content living in a tiny apartment without any frills. But I know too that sooner or later, cooking dinner and living without frills will lose the sparkle and thrill it holds now. Sooner or later we will stop feeling like newlyweds, and this will be hard.

Not trying to be depressing or anything, I just want to be prepared. I want to work through these scenarios now so that when it happens, I won’t be crushed. I don’t want to have the feelings of marrying the wrong person just because it doesn’t feel magical anymore. I refuse to be one of those na├»ve young brides who think marriage will solve all my problems, that Ben will be perfect 100% of the time, and that we will never fight. I want to face these issues head on and be able to deal with them appropriately when they arise, instead of feeling crushed by disappointment. I will always love Ben, but I know the warm fuzzy feelings might not always be there. I know that we will both make mistakes and say things we don’t mean. We will both be angry with one another at some point, but we are choosing now how we will handle these issues. Instead of taking everything personally and responding out of anger, we want to be able to openly discuss our feelings and find solutions together. This is only one of the many things we have been talking through, and to be honest, talking through these things and planning for our marriage is more fun than choosing colors, flowers, food, and wedding attire. It means more, and it will certainly last much longer.

I’ll give you a taste of what we have been discussing, and what we’ll be discussing in the coming months as we continue reading through the book. Here’s a list of the chapters. They begin with “I Wish I had Known…”

1.    That being in love is not an adequate foundation for building a successful marriage

2.    That romantic love has two stages

3.    That the saying “Like mother, like daughter” and “Like father like son” is not a myth

4.    How to solve disagreements without arguing

5.    That apologizing is a sign of strength

6.    That forgiveness is not a feeling

7.    That toilets are not self-cleaning

8.    That we needed a plan for handling our money

9.    That mutual sexual fulfillment is not automatic

10. That I was marrying into a family

11. That spirituality is not to be equated with “going to church”

12. That personality profoundly influences behavior

It has truly been a joy discussing these things together. I love the fact that we are figuring out some of this stuff now in order to avoid some heartbreak. We’ve always been good at openly discussing our feelings when we disagree. We’ve already been practicing not letting the sun go down on our anger…which has caused some very late nights as we talk through issues together. This is not a fun experience, admitting you’re wrong and apologizing, but I’m glad we can do it. We always consult one another on major decisions; we want to be a team, united. In order for this, we need God. He is the glue that holds us together, the basis for everything we believe in. One of my favorite verses is Ecclesiastes 4: 9- “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.” The picture is awesome- two people working together and conquering the world. But the most important part is God-he makes a couple a triple braided cord, not easily broken. With God, it will be hard to be separate. It’s comforting to know that when we face issues and heartache, we will be held together by the power of God.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

What I've Learned

Since being in a relationship for the past three years, I’ve learned so many important lessons. In the beginning of high school I swore off relationships; I figured it wasn’t worth it to date in high school because it would be distracting and end in heart break. But of course that changed when Ben came into the picture, and God has used this experience to teach me so much about life. I never want to sound like we have it all figured out…far from the truth. But I look around sometimes and just want to share what I’ve learned with young ladies today because they are being lied to and settling for less than what they deserve. I just want to share with them some truths I’ve picked up along the way.

I want every girl to know that she is worth being pursued. I read an article a few weeks ago about how the art of pursuit is slowly disappearing; women today I guess like to take charge and make a move themselves. Or…pursuit is being seen as “creepy.” It’s a sad reality I suppose. I remember finding it weird and a little creepy when Ben would be the gentleman he is, opening doors and genuinely caring for me. Once before we were dating, my car broke down and he bought me some oil at Wal-Mart. I thought that was a bit strange; but it felt nice. I slowly began to realize that this behavior was not creepy…Ben was a gentleman and he enjoyed doing nice things for me. Ladies…you are worth being pursued. When a boy opens a door for you, he isn’t insulting you; he just wants to be nice. It’s not stalking if he leaves you gifts, writes on your Facebook wall, or texts you…he just wants you to know that he is thinking about you and likes you. He wants to pay for your dinner and buy you flowers for no reason not to be creepy…but to be a gentleman! You are worth being pursued! Every girl deserves a boy that puts forth the effort to woo you. I don’t care how times have changed, if you don’t have a guy that puts forth that effort, maybe he’s not for you. In my mind, it’s still the guy’s job to win your heart.

I wish every girl knew how much clothes have an effect on guys. Boys are very visually stimulated, and if you put it out there, they will look. Don’t complain about how guys just see women as objects when you dress in tight shirts with extremely low necklines and low rise jeans. Again, if you put it out there, they will look. When you start dating a boy who actually likes you for you and not your body, it’s beyond frustrating for them when your clothes start to get distracting. Guys get jealous…if they can see certain parts of you because of your clothes, so can other guys, and that bugs them. Cover up not only to help your guy out, but to give him some peace of mind. Really take a look at the clothes you put on in the morning and ask yourself if they way you dress would cause a fellow brother to stumble.

I wish every girl could see how going from boyfriend to boyfriend isn’t worth it. Some will tell you that dating a lot of boys gives you experience, it helps you discover what you really want in a dating and marriage relationship. Maybe. But maybe all it does is hurt you, leave you cynical, and give you baggage to lug around. From what I’ve seen, it’s the girls who have had countless boyfriends who think relationships aren’t worth it anymore…that boys are jerks and marriage is a joke. The younger you start, the worse it gets…that’s why I am a firm believer in waiting until you’re older to think about dating. My own kids will have ‘”the 16 rule.” I don’t want to see my daughters get caught up in relationships and get hurt.

I want every girl to know that not all guys are scumbags. Mind blown, right? There are good ones out there! There are still boys out there who will ask your dad if he can date you…Ben did it. There are boys who like you for you and who will wait for you…Ben waited 6 months for me to turn 16 so we could date. There are boys out there who will tell you that you look beautiful, not sexy or hot. Boys who are saving themselves for marriage and who love God more than they will love you. Boys who are excited for adulthood, for marriage, for kids…who will look at you and say they can’t wait for a future with you and truly mean it. Boys who wait to say “I love you” until they really, really mean it, not just to manipulate you into giving them what they want. There are boys out there who have been learning to love God before they love a girl…who want to be spiritual leaders and the head of their future households. The problem is…most of these guys are still learning and seeking God. They aren’t out prowling the hallways, charming the girls, always in and out of relationships. They might be the quiet ones, the “weird” ones, the ones you overlook. Don’t overlook these boys…they will treat you the way you deserve to be treated…as a daughter of the God they love. Be patient and wait for God to bring you the young man he has been preparing for you. One day you will understand why it maybe took so long.

 Don’t try to do God’s job. He is preparing boys that are worth the wait, who will treat you the way you deserve to be treated. I look back on these three years and just smile…I had overlooked Ben so many times before, but I’m glad I finally saw him for the absolute gift he is. He is a true gentleman who treats me with respect and who truly loves me. The great thing is…Ben isn’t the only one. Wait for these guys, they are worth it.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Our Engagement

I feel like every girl dreams of the same things: finding that one person that makes your heart pound each time you see them and falling in love with them, getting engaged, and planning a wedding. I would like to say that I’m not the only little girl who fell asleep dreaming about being rescued by prince charming and living happily ever after…maybe I have Disney to blame for that one! When Ben and I started dating and talking about marriage, it really freaked me out at first. Ben was the first boy I ever really, really liked, but in the beginning, I didn’t know that it would be forever. Seriously, what 16 year old girl thinks she is going to marry her first boyfriend??I guess you could say that Ben and I are far from normal, and here we are, high school sweethearts, planning a wedding.

My engagement was a huge surprise, but at the same time not a surprise at all. We had talked quite a bit about getting engaged, so I knew it was coming sooner or later….a lot later, though! Ben is so sneaky…he kept talking about the things he was going to buy for Christmas, how he was so excited to get himself an iPhone, and how he was going to have the perfect amount of money to pay for next semester. Seemed like he had all his money budgeted out perfectly…no ring this semester. I figured it would come in the spring…maybe my birthday.

The final week on November and the first week in December were really crazy for both of us. Thanksgiving break was behind us and school was kicking up once again. I started winter track, and Ben was working pretty much every day. We were caught up in final papers and projects, and had zero time to hang out. We’re together quite a bit, so it was bugging us that we hadn’t had any time to just hang out and chat. Ben decided that we needed a date, so we planned to go out next Wednesday the 7th. There is nothing special about this day…it was just a day that both of us had free to go out. A few weeks ago I had bought a “little black dress” to wear on dates, so we decided to go a little fancier so I could wear my cute new dress…Ben decided to keep the location a surprise.

My sister Katie had a choir concert on December 2, and since I hadn’t seen one yet I decided to drive down to Sioux Center and go to the concert with my mom and brother. My dad had hernia surgery that week and was recovering at home. Ben asked if my dad would be at the concert…which maybe should have gotten me suspicious that he was planning on taking a trip to Yankton to talk to my dad…but I thought nothing of it. I told Ben that my dad was at home recovering, and that was that. I decided to stay the night with Kate at Dordt so I wouldn’t have to drive home when I was sleepy. I guess when I told Ben I was staying overnight he decided to head home to Yankton to ask my dad if he could marry me. In his words, he felt that God was telling him it was the right time.

Ben and I planned on doing Christmas shopping that Saturday and you’d think that a person would act differently after having a chat like that, but Ben was acting completely normal. I had to work at the school library from 2-4 on Sunday, which is when Ben went to the mall and bought a beautiful diamond ring. Working at the library isn’t exactly the most exciting job, especially on a Sunday afternoon, so I kept texting Ben…he was supposed to be working on papers. He kept telling me that he was getting distracted playing video games and that he would get it done eventually….what  a liar. He was buying my engagement ring! I came over right after work and he was still acting normal. Throughout the week he kept freaking out when I would get onto his Facebook…I always log out of his account, I have never read any of his messages, but he always says this when I’m on his account, which is why I wasn’t suspicious at all. He does the same thing if I look in his phone…so I also wasn’t suspicious when he wouldn’t let me see his phone that week. We are just weird this way…we completely trust each other, we just tease a lot. I love how God kind of worked things out for us…if we weren’t so weird about things like Facebook and text messages, I would have totally known.

With all the craziness of final projects and tests, I was so looking forward to our date. I had an early morning pool workout and a treadmill work out that day, so I already felt that I had been up for forever, but time with Ben would be great. I was feeling a little silly in my dress, because I feel that people don’t dress up to go out to eat anymore. I kept asking Ben if the place was nice enough to dress up for…he just laughed and said yes. We always take pictures of our “fancy dates,” so I still wasn’t suspicious of anything. I would have known something was up if he wanted to take pictures of this date when we’d never done that…just another cool thing I feel like God orchestrated.

Dinner was great, completely normal. We went to Foley’s, and no, nothing special about this place. It was just a nice restaurant. We had great conversation; we always have so much fun together. Ben always finds some reason to make fun of me…we did a lot of laughing. We don’t usually do dessert, but when we do, it’s always cheesecake. Ben is SO picky…no chocolate, no mint, no fruit…so cheesecake is kind of a godsend. It’s literally the only dessert we agree on, and I guess Ben decided that today, he wanted cheesecake. The waitress brought out the dessert menus and suggested cheesecake…strange, that’s what we wanted! What a great waitress. She came back in a flash; I was so impressed by this lady! She comes out carrying this huge nine inch cheesecake, and my mouth falls open. I’m thinking “Wow! What a great place! They bring you a whole cheesecake! Man, we’ll have plenty of leftovers!” She sets the whole thing in front of me and tells me “Make sure you read the writing, now.” Everything slows down…like in a movie when they turn on the slow motion. I read the cheesecake, which says “Will you marry me” in mini chocolate chips. Ben gets up from the booth and drops down on one knee and pulls out the ring box. My eyes are huge, my heart is pounding, I am completely in shock. He says “Sara, I love you and I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Will you marry me?” I love that Ben didn’t try to come up with some fancy speech that he would have forgotten out of nervousness. He just said what he felt.

For all you hopeless romantics out there, I apologize for not crying. I was just in shock…I did cry later though, so that counts, right? I just said yes, and we kissed, and people clapped. We sat in that booth for a good twenty minutes just looking at the ring and talking about how sneaky Ben is. I barely ate one piece of cheesecake because my stomach was doing flips; I think Ben ate two whole pieces out of nervousness. A table of older gentlemen offered to buy us drinks, which we politely declined. We decided to take a drive down to Falls Park to see the Winter Wonderland Christmas lights. It really was a perfect night. Right now we’re just enjoying being newly engaged…planning won’t start for a while…we just want to enjoy Christmas with our families.

So there you have it. We got engaged J

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Early Days

Everyone always thinks they have the best love story, so of course I think the same. For the past three years, I have been falling in love with one of the most amazing men God decided to put on this earth. The main reason things have worked out so well between Ben and I is that we decided early on that God needs to stay in the center of our lives. This is the best advice I can give to any young couple just starting to date-if God isnt the center of it all, things will rapidly go downhill. He is the glue that holds everything together.

I can't remember when Ben and I first met, because we've gone to the same church since he moved back to Yankton in second grade. So naturally, church is where we met, became friends, and began dating. One of the first things I remember about Ben is his truck...his 1981 tan Toyota truck. This thing stood out...it was a two seater truck that was more rust than vehicle, but I loved it. I took my first ride in it after youth group one night when a few of us decided to go get ice cream...it was one of my first experiences with Ben, one I will never forget.

The summer of 2008 was one of the best summers of my entire life. Our youth group started hanging out pretty much every day...going to the beach, playing sand volleyball and mini golf, watching countless movies, and just enjoying each others fellowship. Ben was there much of the time, and we became pretty good friends. My mom would always hint about Ben, saying that he was such a nice young man. I totally misunderstood Ben at that time, though. He was the sweetest 16 year old boy I had ever met, but I just wasn't used to how he treated me and the rest of the girls in our group. He was so respectful, always opening doors, actually listening to what we had to say, and just being a good friend like his dad taught him. However, we just weren't used to boys being so nice, and I thought if I was too nice back, he would think I liked him, and at the time I didnt. So I spent a good deal of that summer making sure he didnt get the wrong impression...until the unthinkable happened! I started falling for Ben...

One week in July, my sister Katie went away to Honor's Choir, and it seemed that everyone else in our group was gone too. For the first time that summer, there was nothing to do and no one to hang out with...except for Ben and his little sister Samantha. Ben kept asking me to go fishing with him sometime that week, which freaked me out because I still wasn't sure how I felt about him and I didn't want him to think I was agreeing to go on a date with him. But soon I got so tired of saying no and I really had no excuse not to go, I finally said yes. I drug my little brother Matthew along so it wouldn't feel so much like a date. We were all piled into his little truck when Sam came riding home on her bike from babysitting, and I spontaneously asked her to join, which she did. I could tell Ben was not happy about this...did he really want this to be just the two of us?

Ben made me bait my own fishing hook, which grossed me out. I hadn't been fishing in years and was so concerned that Ben would think I was just some sissy girl. I was terrible at casting and could feel my cheeks flush each time my cast flopped three feet in front of me. Ever the sweetie, Ben never said anything. (Until we actually started dating...then he would make fun of my pathetic cast, no problem!) A few hours later, I had not caught anything and it was time to get going. I slowly pulled my line in...and wa-lah! I had a catch! Ben helped me reel in my bass, small mouth or large mouth I can't remember, but it was so exciting! Not only had I caught this big fish, but there was a smaller fish on the line too, and I had kept both my worms! Totally a natural. I couldn't help but wonder that night as I lay in my bed if Ben was impressed by my fishing skills...and if was after this night I knew I was falling for this sweet boy.

We began chatting on MSN that week a ton, because my sister Katie wasn't there...she usually had the computer at night because she was older. Each time we chatted, I learned something new about Ben and I began to like him more and more. This continued when school started a few weeks later, but I also knew that Ben and Katie chatted quite a bit too, which bothered me. They were in marching band and concert band together and got to talk quite a bit at school too, which really bothered me. And the icing on the cake...Ben asked Katie to prom! I was a year younger than Ben, and I was crushed. But, I never said anything and tried to hide my sadness about this.

Even as this was happening, Ben and I kept chatting at night and would hang out at church all the time. I was going through a rough time at school and was struggling with some things on my cross country team, and Ben invited me to go fishing with him to talk through some stuff. I was thrilled, but knew my parents would not agree to this unofficial date. I wasn't allowed to date or hang out alone with a boy until I was 16...not for 7 more months. So I sort of snuck out and we went on a "forbidden date." I was sick to my stomach the whole time, because my parents didn't know about this and I felt so naughty! But it was a really fun day. Ben brought a radio, it was a beautiful September day, and we were comfortable with each other. We ended up spending the entire day together...our youth pastor Jeremy called Ben and invited him to go to a friend's grandpa's funeral, so we awkwardly went to that. Later, we took a walk through the old Wal-Mart building that our church bought and was remodeling to become our new church. Ben had spent the entire summer working on it, which really impressed me. He worked on cars with his dad, and could do construction stuff too?? I thought this was adorable.

Going home was...awkward. My dad and I had a chat about how I wasn't allowed to date until I was 16. He straight up asked me if I liked Ben, to which I immediately blurted "No!" I walked to my parent's bedroom where my mom was watching tv, and told her I had just lied to my dad...I really did like Ben. This was the first time I had ever said this out loud. I was so confused...because sometimes it seemed like he liked me, and other times it didnt.

To add to all the confusion, Ben's parents got a divorce. This was difficult for me, because I was so close to Ben and Sam. I hung out with Sam a ton when this first happened and so wanted to be there for Ben too, but he never wanted to talk about it. I decided to cool it with my little crush for a bit, because Ben didn't need this right now. To my surprise though, Ben finally made a move! I was hanging out with Sam one Sunday when she gave me a note from Ben(which I still have, I believe). He wanted to meet later that night to talk about something important. My heart about jumped out of my throat! It was akward telling my family that Ben wanted to meet and talk, because they all knew I liked him and that he was probably going to ask me out. My mom dropped me off at Hy-Vee, the grocery store he worked at, and gave the okay for Ben to bring me home.

I walked in from the cold and rainy October 12 night and saw him sitting in the dining area of the store...hunched over the booth, praying. He later told me that was the only thing he could do because he was so nervous. He was adorable in his white button up shirt and bright red tie...curly hair sticking out everywhere because when he is thinking really hard about something he runs his fingers through his hair. He noticed me and flashed me his adorable smile, dimples and all.(We both have dimples in the same place...our future kids are going to be stinking cute!) On the table were two Mello Yellows, his favorite pop, and Smarties, the candy the store gave out to little kids. We made awkward small talk for a while, drinking Mello Yellow and playing with Smartie wrappers, when Ben finally said something along the lines of "Um...I kind of like you...and I was wondering...if you like me too?" I remember smiling and nodding...because I was so excited I couldnt talk. Hadn't I dreamed about this all summer??? We stayed and talked for a while, then had to leave because it was getting late. Ben ran out into the rain, jumping and yelling something I can't remember.

Our MSN chats were ten times more exciting after that night. Everytime we talked I fell for him a little more. It took a while for people at church to get used to the idea of Ben and I, because there weren't too many people dating in youth group. People did warm up to it eventually...as did my family. He fit right into the craziness. We made sure to tell our youth pastor Jeremy right away, so he could keep us accountable. We spent the next 6 months waiting until I turned 16 so we could actually begin to date. I felt like a princess...someone was willing to wait 6 months just to date me!

We held hands for the first time in November...at my Senior Pastor's house! So funny when we think back on that now. That simple connection...holding hands...made everything feel real. Its one of those things that every girl dreams about. It was sweet and adorable, a night I will never forget. We began to talk about our first kiss, which freaked Ben out at first. We spent hours on the phone, dreaming about our first kiss and making a list of all the things we would do when we could finally date for real. The months flew by.

My 16th birthday fell on a Friday. We hopped into his little truck after school and swung by Dairy Queen from blizzards, then headed down to the river so Ben could give me my gift. I unwrapped an antique jewerly box, and inside was the most adorable necklace ever. A small heart wrapped in a larger one with a tiny diamond in the smaller one. Perfect for a 16 year old in love. We took a walk under the old bridge across the river, when Ben stopped and asked if he could kiss me. I of course nodded...my heart pounding so hard I was sure he could see it. He took my face in his hands and leaned in to give me the most perfect first kiss ever. So sweet, just perfect. We continued walking, and this old man kept seeing us sneaking kisses. He must have seen us two or three times...and we laughed every time. Poor old guy...out trying to enjoy his walk and he kept running into us.

Now that we could finally date, we spent the entire summer together. We went fishing, watched countless movies, and got dressed up to go out on "fancy dates." We were never bored...seemed like we were always laughing and enjoying life together. When school started I began to panic...this was our last year in school together before he would go to college. He decided to go to the University of Sioux Falls, only an hour away, but I wasnt sure I would go there, or it my parents would be okay with that if I did decide to go there. His graduation day was horrible for me, because it meant only three more months til he would leave. He spent most of the summer reassuring me that he loved me, but as a normal girl I had the fears that he wouldn't have time for me, that he wouldn't ever get to come home, or wose yet, that he would meet another girl. I trusted him, I just wasn't sure what God's plan was. Dropping him off was horrible, I cried the entire way home.

Ben was so sweet and patient with me. I knew I was being a baby...but we were so close that it hurt to be away from him for even a few weeks. We started writing letters...real letters...based on First Corinthians 13, or "The Love Chapter." We wrote about the individual love characteristics and what they meant to us personally, and how we could apply it in our lives to better love each other. I saved all of mine in a little purple box, and he has his in a binder, along with every other note, drawing, and letter I gave him since before we were dating. Its so fun to go back and read all of those notes and see how we've grown.

My parents knew how much I loved Ben and didn't have a problem with me going to USF the following year. It really is a great school...its just an added bonus that Ben is there too! We got engaged on December 7, 2011, but thats another story for another night :)