Monday, July 23, 2012

Our Courtship Story

"And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.....Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh."
Genesis 2:18-24

So today I'm sitting down to do something I promised awhile back.....sharing our courtship story. Where should I begin? In 2012 when we "officially met", 2009 when we began talking online, or should I go back further to a little girl that was brought up hoping and dreaming of being a wife and mom someday.....? One thing I can tell you for sure, this quote from Matthew Henry came true in our lives:

"Providence sometimes wonderfully directs those that by faith and prayer seek direction from heaven in the choice of suitable yoke-fellows: happy marriages those are likely to be that are made in the fear of God; and these, we are sure, are made in heaven. "

Our story isn't all romance, and wasn't always easy, or even pain free.....but it is the plan that the Lord had for us, how He drew us to one another, and to Himself. And before I go on to share, let me just say that every courtship is different, people and families are different, and I'm not trying to say our way of doing things is the only way, or the perfect way. Though it was perfect for us and I have no regrets. I feel very blessed to have had the courtship we did, and that our desire was that the Lord be glorified through all that was done.

And now going back to the little girl who dreamed of getting married.....that same girl began praying for her future husband when she was about 15, and also praying that the Lord would keep her heart for whoever that man might be.......then a  lot of time passed by as she [I] continued to wait, pray, and wonder what the Lord's plan was for my life. Life moved on....I moved from my parent's home in VA to South Carolina, joined a wonderful church, and worked as a mother's helper..... watched four of my younger siblings get married in that time, and start families of their own, and among other things, learned what it truly meant to wait on the Lord. I've shared so much of that here on this blog in the past, the many lessons the Lord was teaching me in waiting on Him. Looking back from a distance it's easy to see that the Lord's timing and plan was just right. He taught me so much in that time, about Himself, and just practically about living the Christian life, submitting to His will, and plenty of useful things for running a home and working with children. Lest you go away from reading this thinking I'm perfect......well just go ask my friends and family! But the Lord is good, and He didn't wait till I 'had it together' or was perfectly content before He answered my prayers. That in itself is humbling - being given a gift that I by no means deserved. Through our courtship I often felt overwhelmed by the Lord's goodness to us!

On to 2009.......For those of you who are reformed Presbyterians, you'll know that the reformed world can be a small one......John and I had mutual friends and talked some on facebook, and though at the time both of us wanted to be married - it wasn't in the Lord's timing. We didn't realize it then, but we both had growing to do. John had just been through a divorce, and I had plenty of things I needed to work through. In hindsight we can see that the Lord was very gracious, and we both feel that we can be a better spouse to the other now than we would have been three years ago. Ironically about the time we met, in 2012, was when we had both reached the point that we wanted to stop 'looking' and leave it all in the Lord's hands.

We talked off and on through the next couple years, mainly just 'how are you doing messages' every few months. In the Lord's providence He used that time for us get to know one another some through messages and simply observing the other's life on facebook, which was helpful when we later began courting.

Then last winter John and some friends began gathering to join my church's live stream services, and he and a friend decided to come visit the church. When he told me he was coming down, and suggested getting together, I invited him to dinner at the Es (my second family whom I worked for). I was just a little nervous about meeting, wondering if this was a friendly visit, OR something more.

The evening came - I cooked dinner, lasagna, salad, homemade rolls, and lemon meringue dessert. The first thing I noticed was that normally being a shy person, I immediately felt comfortable and at ease with John. We had a fun family evening together - suddenly it was 2:00 in the morning and we quickly said good nights. I think 'my family' realized before I did, Mr. E asked me if I would like to have him over the next night. I didn't have to think about it, just said yes :-)

Family continued to 'matchmake', and while I was making the coffee at church the next day they put John in a chair next to mine. After the service we never did get up, but sat and talked and talked.....Then continued talking till 2:00 in the morning at the Es! He left that night telling me he was sure we would talk....then flew back to Wisconsin.


"Sit still, my daughter, till thou know how the matter will fallhow it is decreed in heaven....for marriages are made there. She had done all that was fit for her to do, and now she must patiently wait the issue and not be perplexed about it. Let us learn hence to cast our care upon providence, to follow that and attend the motions of it, composing ourselves into an expectation of the event, with a resolution to acquiesce in it, whatever it be. Sometimes that proves best done for us that is least our own doing. "Sit still, therefore, and see how the matter will fall, and say, Let it fall how it will, I am ready for it......Sit still, and see how the matter will fall, for the Lord will perfect that which concerns thee, and will make it to work for good to thee"
Matthew Henry

I knew that Lord's day night that he was 'the one' or at least who I wanted to be the one, but my question was, was this the Lord's will? Later I found out that he had felt the same way, but wanted to pray about such an important decision before speaking. I was impressed with John, his godly character, his desire to follow the Lord, the way he cared for his family, and felt that we connected well. The next few days were spent in a lot of prayer for guidance for both of us, and for contentment with whatever the Lord had planned. During that time we continued talking online, then Friday morning I got a message asking if I would be interested in a courtship!!! That was February 17th.

What did courtship look like for us? To begin with I should say we both consider courtship to be something that is working towards marriage, not a casual dating relationship (though that's not to say every courtship will, or should end in marriage!). It also was a long distance relationship, John living in Wisconsin and me in South Carolina. Then I had asked Mr E and Pastor to help me if/when the day came that I was being courted. Their oversight and guidance was a blessing, as was the support and encouragement of family. When John came on courtship visits I wasn't the only one looking forward to spending time with him! Everyone does things differently, but some decisions made that were perfect for us, were that while we didn't have a problem going out alone together, we chose to spend a lot of time with others, and not to hold hands till we were engaged, or kiss till we were married.

We began by writing lots of long messages and talked about everything you can think of from the daily Bible reading we were doing together, to raising children, to modest dress, to our jobs, funny things children said......and also made very good use of facebook chat. I became adept at multitasking, keeping my laptop on the kitchen counter, chatting and working at the same time. Right away we were very open and comfortable with one another, and were amazed to find out just how like-minded we were. It didn't take long before we were finishing one another's sentences! Shortly after that we began weekly phone dates, which soon changed to nightly phone dates, often hours of conversation (we had cause to give thanks for free cell minutes at night!). We also found out that sleep and courtship don't mix so well! 
There were a few plane trips south as well, mostly weekend visits, but we did have more than a week together when we spent time with my family in Virginia and also used that time to work on wedding plans.....but I'm getting ahead of myself here :-)

In April John came to visit, bringing his mom with him to meet me. From all the hints flying around I was a bit suspicious that something was up. That visit was communion season at church, so was very, very busy, but we did make some time early Saturday afternoon to go to Starbucks for coffee, the same place where we had our first 'date'. While there John asked me to marry him and gave me a beautiful diamond ring! I was more than happy to say yes! I had no doubt that the Lord wanted me to be this man's wife, felt sure we could serve the Lord better together, and very much looked forward to spending the rest of my life with him. It was a very special time......then made more special when we went home and found out that the Es (who knew he was proposing) had a surprise engagingment party for us! I felt so blessed and happy as we celebrated together. That was April 14th.

Engagement.....we soon had a date, June 23rd.....and I got busy doing something I had never done before, planning my own wedding! It seemed surreal at times :-) John and I planned the whole thing ourselves, thankfully both wanting a very simple, God glorifying ceremony, with those we loved most there with us. I was also blessed to have the help of a wonderful friend who is a wedding coordinator, family and friends that helped where they could, in many ways that were a blessing, and the Es who offered their beautiful home for a reception. Every detail fell into place, and we could see the Lord's hand and blessing in all of it. Rather than tell ya'll about our wedding I'll share the video below and you can see for yourselves what a beautiful ceremony it was :-)

"Marriages... are made in heaven: we are sure this was, for the man, the woman, the match, were all God's own work; he, by his power, made them both, and now, by his ordinance, made them one."
Matthew Henry

This beautiful quote by Matthew Henry is special to me now as I look back on all that took place over the past months. I'm still amazed by how quickly the Lord can change circumstances, and so thankful for His goodness and for answered prayers. I can't imagine being anywhere else, with anyone else.....or being happier.....the Lord is good!

"This is my beloved and this is my friend."
Song of Solomon 5:16

 ♥ My family ♥"He gives the barren woman a home,
    making her the joyous mother of children.
Praise the Lord!"
Psalm 113:9

Sharing with Modest Mondays,Homemaker By Choice Proverbs 31 Thursdays,  Women Living Well, Raising Homemakers, Titus 2sdays,Wise Woman link up,  Growing Home  Far Above Rubies  Encouraging One Another Thought Provoking Thursday, Soli Deo Gloria Our Simple Country Life, and Thankful Homemaker.

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"Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it."
Isaiah 55:6,8-1