Monday, January 23, 2012

Learning to Love

So naturally since I got engaged, love has been on my mind quite a bit. Something about our upcoming marriage makes me feel so much more in love than I was before we were engaged, and much of my day is spent dreaming about what our wedding day will be like. At the same time, I’ve been reading through this book called “Crazy Love” by Francis Chan, a book all about God’s love for his creation. Let’s just say…love has been on my mind almost nonstop since December 7, 2011. Reading this book has really gotten me thinking about what real love really is…if you get to thinking about it really hard, your brain might start to hurt. Society has really skewed our thoughts on what love really is. Is it just a word, something someone says but don’t always mean? Is it something you feel about someone else but can disappear when people change? Is it action…like going out on dates and spending time together? Or is it a combination of feelings and actions? I don’t really know; it’s hard to define. So I’ve been doing some serious thinking about what I think love is, and how I learned this. I look back to how I was raised, how I interacted with my siblings, and what I learned at church and through my relationship with God. It’s given me a much better understanding of how I see love, so I thought I would share.
I feel extremely blessed to have grown up in the family I did. My parents are both Christians, and I never worried about whether or not they loved each other. No one has a perfect relationship and I watched my parents travel the ups and downs of marriage, but I never worried that I would wake up one day and one of them would be gone. I saw them hug, kiss, hold hands, laugh, and tease each other. I sat beside them in church every Sunday and watched them open up the Bible to seek out God’s wisdom. I saw their faces in each concert crowd and heard their excited cries as I ran dozens of cross country and track races. I also heard them get into fights and get angry. I felt the tension of disagreements as much as they did. But I also listened to apologies, the “I’m sorry, you were right, and I was wrong” ‘s. I saw them work through conflict. I saw my dad giving my mom his undivided attention when she was sharing a story about her day. I listened to my mom call my dad while he was at work…to just share something funny, or a concern she had. She always sought my dad first. It’s not perfect, it’s messy sometimes, and there is always room for improvement, just as in every single relationship out there. But growing up with this type of love modeled for me is such a blessing. I learned to apologize, to realize that I’m not always right. I learned that communication is important, that we always need to share our hopes, dreams, and fears with one another, even if it’s in the middle of the workday. I learned how important it is to be there for your family…to go to each concert and sporting event. I learned that it’s not easy, that it’s not always fun, but it’s worth fighting for. I am so grateful for this foundation.

My siblings and I are pretty close. We fought like crazy when we were little, especially when Emily was in charge for the night when Mom and Dad were gone. When we heard the garage door opening, we somehow always managed to calm each other down, forget about the disagreement, and pretend everything was fine when Mom asked how it went. Ok so this doesn’t sound like a good, honest love, but let me explain. We disagreed and fought. We had periods of time where we didn’t really like each other. But, we loved each other. We may have pretended everything was fine so we didn’t get in trouble, but by the next morning everything was forgiven and forgotten. We knew that the little things didn’t really matter and they weren’t worth fighting about. We’d much rather be playing and having fun than nursing a grudge. And even to this day, I know my siblings would do anything for me. I used to lecture mean little boys who would pick on my brother on the playground…I was (and still am) so protective of that guy, and I know he feels the same way. He may be younger, but he is protective too and only wants the best for me. When my sisters and I get together, it is pure chaos. I laugh more with them than anyone else. I can call Kate on the phone and talk for an hour about what’s going on in my life that week, and she instantly makes my day brighter. She is hilarious. Emily and I are quite a few years apart, but I think we are very similar…we have our mother’s genes. Shane, Ben, and Dad would understand this best. J My siblings taught me not to sweat the little things, to pick my battles wisely. Not everything is worth fighting about, it’s better to just enjoy our time together. They too taught me the importance of communication…talking through issues and sharing life’s funny adventures together brings us so much closer together. They taught me how important it is to just be there for each other, to help each other through life. Love between siblings is much different than the love between husband and wife, but I definitely put into action what I learned about love from them in my life every day. Thanks guys. J

God is the best example of love in my life. After all, 1 John 4:8 says “God is love.” It blows my mind to think God knew me before the creation of the universe; that he died for me. He cares about me, my name is written on his heart, he knows all my comings and goings. He knows the number or hairs on my head, for goodness sake! (I’d like to know that too.) I could reference a million verses about God’s love, but I don’t have the room or time to do that. My relationship with God is the number one most important thing in my life, and in return I have learned how to love. I strive to live like Christ, so that means not just learning how to love Ben, but everyone, including those I don’t really like. So this means forgiving. Forgiving Ben when he hurts me, and forgiving those people who have wronged me and the ones I love. It means that I am a servant. I need to forget about myself. This life isn’t about me! I need to put Ben’s needs above my own and stop expecting him to fulfill all of my needs. Love is sacrificial. Jesus laid down his life for me, and in return I need to do the same. 1 John 3:16 says that This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” Love seems to be all about action when I think about it in this context…it’s so much more than just a thing to say or an emotion that gives us sweaty palms and butterflies in the stomach. “Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions. Our actions will show that we belong to the truth, so we will be confident when we stand before God.” 1 John 3:18-19. I want to love Ben like this. A selfless, sacrificial, serving kind of love.

Most of all, I just want to keep learning how to love. It doesn’t end when you get married; you can’t stop learning how to love just because you have the security or marriage. We’re always changing, and I want to keep learning about Ben and loving him in new, Ben-specific ways. We’re excited to read the book “Love and Respect” by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs to learn more about love before our big day. I’ll keep you posted about this, but I am pumped! Even before reading the book it makes so much sense…Ben wants my respect and I want his love. He loves keeping me included in all his plans, every decision he makes he includes me. I can already see that he wants me to trust him and respect his decisions. I’ve already been trying to keep this in mind in everyday conversation. I want him to know that I trust and respect him. I need the security of love, I need to feel cherished and wanted. I need to hear him say he loves me and that he’ll always be here for me. So it will be really really fun to learn more about this. I think it will be great for our relationship.

I hope we can be an inspiration to all of you. My most heartfelt thanks to my wonderful parents and siblings for being the best models of love in my life. And the biggest thanks belongs to God, who made this all possible. Without Him, I wouldn’t know what love even is.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

How I know

I remember thinking when I was little “How will I know when I’ve found ‘the one?’” There are so many people on this earth, how am I supposed to know when I’m in love and who I want to spend the rest of my life with? It wasn’t like when Ben and I started dating I knew for sure I wanted to be with him forever. I remember in the beginning questioning whether or not I even wanted to do the dating thing, because in the real world not too many high school sweethearts end up getting married. There was eventually going to be a breakup…or we would get married. At sixteen, it was a lot to think about. I knew there would be a year where I’d be left behind to finish high school while Ben moved on to college, and with that came the fear he’d meet a girl and be hit with “this is the girl I’m supposed to be with.” I’ll admit to having daymares about Ben coming home to tell me he’d met someone else. How awkward would that have been?? But of course as the year went on and Ben came home pretty much every two weeks to spend the weekends with me, I knew he wasn’t going anywhere. I think Ben has been sure of us since even the first few months…I’m not sure how often he had thoughts about breaking up, or even if he had them at all. He’s been in it for the long haul all along. And of course I no longer have those terrifying thoughts and am just relishing the feeling of being engaged; the promise of forever stretching out in front of me.

So I’ve been thinking about my younger self with all my worries about “the one” and have been formulating an answer that I would have wanted my younger self, and other young girls now, to know. When you’re little, you dream about all the things you want to do when you grow up: going to college, getting married, finding a job, buying a house, having kids, traveling….and the list goes on and on depending on how adventurous you are. In our little girl minds, we picture our tall, dark, and handsome mystery husbands doing all these things with us. For me, I stopped picturing this mystery husband and starting picturing doing these things with Ben and this is when I knew Ben was “the one.” He wasn’t just a boyfriend anymore, someone to take me out on dates and enjoy feeling loved and appreciated with…he became a much more permanent figure.

Now, when I graduate college I know that Ben will be sitting in the audience cheering and clapping for me. On my wedding day, I’ll be looking into Ben’s eyes and pledging my life to him. When I’m looking for jobs and enduring those awkward interviews, Ben will be encouraging and coaching me. Buying a house becomes exciting and a lot less scary with Ben. When I meet my newborn for the first time, Ben is the only person I want there to share that precious moment with me. As I add to the list of places I want to see and things I want to do, I know that Ben will always be there to keep me company. Unless God decides to take Ben home earlier than I expect, I plan on experiencing all of life’s amazing milestones with him at my side…and I cannot wait for all our adventures.

Saturday, January 7, 2012


1182. This is how many days Ben and I have been together. Or, you could look at it in a few other ways: 3 years, 2 months, and 26 days. 168 weeks. 28,368 hours. 1,702,080 minutes. 102,124,800 seconds. It’s kind of fun to break it down like this and think back to all that’s happened in this time. I’ve been thinking for a while now what my next blog would be about, and I’d like to share with all of you some of my favorite memories; some of the funniest and sweetest moments that have happened in all this time. If you know Ben at all, you know without a doubt that he isn’t exactly normal…and this has made for some pretty hilarious times. He is also one of the sweetest people in the world, treating me better than I deserve most of the time. Here they are, some of my favorite memories for all of you to enjoy.

·         On a beautiful day in late September or early October 2008, Ben and I decided to go fishing. This was before we were dating and before I was actually allowed to spend time with a boy by myself, so I was slightly freaking out when we drove off in Ben’s gloriously rusted out truck. We headed to Subway to pick up lunch for the day, and this is where it got interesting. We got our sandwiches and headed back out to the truck, and Ben struggled to get his keys out of his pocket because his hands were full. He ended up setting his pop on top of the truck so he could fish out the keys, and then we were off. We had the windows down because it was so nice outside. We made it all the way to the Duck Pond across from the Hospital, when all of a sudden Ben says, “What the heck?” and starts wiping his arm off and rolling up the window. Some random liquid had started spilling into the truck. We determined it wasn’t raining, and I remember just laughing and saying, “aww, Ben! Your truck is crying!” We were both kind of confused, but didn’t think much of it and continued driving on. About two minutes later, it dawns on Ben that he had put his pop on top the truck as he fished the keys out of his pocket. I can remember exactly how he said the next statement: “Oh. I just realized. Subway cup. On top of the truck.” We both just start laughing, which erased all awkwardness that we were feeling. It’s been an inside joke between us ever since, and every time we go to Subway now I remind Ben to put his Subway cup inside the truck, not on top.

·         Ben and I like to go on “fancy dates” once in a while. We get dressed up, take pictures, and then feel slightly awkward because it seems like hardly anyone dresses up to go out anymore. (Well, I feel awkward…Ben probably doesn’t care.) The first time we did this, we went to Minerva’s in Yankton. I don’t even remember what he was eating…it was either some kind of pasta or a steak…but we were having normal conversation and enjoying dinner when all of a sudden, Ben puts his silverware down and looks out the window. He’s looking kind of flushed and has this weird faraway look in his eyes, and he’s not talking. I start freaking out, because it looks like he’s going to be sick, and how embarrassing would that be! It only lasts a few seconds, and now he’s just trying to calm me down. I was right; all of a sudden he just didn’t feel good and thought he was going to be sick. Luckily it passed, but I wish I had a camera to capture that face because it was so freaky. Every time we go out now to a nicer place, I always tease Ben about that. Luckily Ben is a good sport J

·         Ben is seriously the sweetest boy I have ever met. I had a really bad day back in high school, but when I came home later that night Ben had dropped off some flowers to brighten my mood. I needed a weekend to myself once after a stressful week, and Ben stopped by with a pint of my favorite ice cream for me. But my favorite memory of Ben’s romantic side happened the summer of 2010-the summer before he left for college. I had been freaking out for a few months now, because I knew the coming year was going to be hard. We’re always together, and it was just going to be lonely without him. We were hanging out at Ben’s house that summer night, chilling on the trampoline. I remember it was a little chilly that night, but it felt so nice snuggled next to Ben. I had my head on his arm, and all of a sudden I start sobbing…I couldn’t stop. Ben hates it when I cry, but I needed to get this out of my system and he just starts playing with my hair and reassuring me that everything will be fine, it’s only a year and we won’t have to do this again. I remember how clear the sky was that night… how the wind felt on my skin, giving me goose bumps…how I couldn’t stop crying. A few weeks later we went on a final walk around campus to say goodbye and he picks me up and swings me around and plants a huge kiss on me right in public. The year ended up passing pretty quickly, but I got really antsy in March, I just wanted the year to be over. We were on the phone one night and I was just so frustrated and annoyed…the next day I give Ben a call as I head home for open lunch. He tells me to wait a few minutes to go to my car, which confused me a little bit…”look down the street, what do you see?” he asks. Sure enough, here comes Ben driving to the school on a random weekday to surprise me. I love this boy.

I wish I could remember more moments like this…I of course journaled most of this but that journal is packed away somewhere in my basement. Every moment I spend with Ben is fun, because he’s so goofy and he brings out that side of me too. A simple trip to Wal-Mart for Zebra Cakes and Mello Yellows is entertaining with Ben. He makes me laugh every day, which is one of the biggest reasons I liked Ben in the first place. He treats me so much better than I deserve most of the time…I got pretty sassy sometimes last year when I was missing him so much. Good thing he’s so patient! Maybe if I think about it some more I’ll post more fun memories, but for now…that’s all you get J