Our Story: Q&A.1

{Ezra’s comments are in italics!}

What is courtship?
People define courtship different ways, which is why I’ve decided to answer this question. It can be a helpful term, but everyone needs to define it.
For us, courtship was a time of getting to know each other (in our case, “getting to know” started very basic because we knew we were interested in each other but at least I didn’t know Ezra that well) with the intent of seeking God to determine whether or not marriage between us would be something that would be wise and god-glorifying. This was done with the involvement of our communities and families, especially both of our fathers. Determining whether or not marriage was wise didn’t come by seeking a sign, but weighing character and equal yoking, and from that making an informed decision.
We decided that for us, there would be almost no physical contact. The one exception to this was an English Country Dancing ball the day before we were engaged. I wondered about that in the days leading up to it, and decided that there’s a difference between dancing with lots of other people (and dancing in which the only contact is hands) and holding hands. Nate’s 3-foot “rule” was something he decided he would do, and that we thought funny but too far and would always try to get around it. This “no contact” rule wasn’t to be legalistic, but to help us keep our focus on character and not affection or emotion. That’s not to say there wasn’t affection. Ezra was definitely winning my heart, but he was winning it by his character and not by flowers, hugs, and presents.

I’m not saying the way we did it was the only right way. It worked for us and was right for us. I do think the world’s way of dating is wrong. But there are people who “date well” – in that they’re ready for a possible marriage, their focus is on God, and it’s not about romance, self,  and pairing off. And there are people who court poorly. It’s more important to do it in a way that honors God than to have the “good” label.

It meant a great deal to me that I would not express or speak love to Kyleigh until it would have the deep meaning given to love by being in covenant. I think that our expressions of love to each other are much sweeter and healthier because we saved them in this way. Every single time that I have said, “I love you” to her, it has meant, “through whatever comes our way, because ours is covenant love”.

What is courtship not?
It didn’t mean we weren’t ever able to talk or be in private, or that my parents “arranged” the marriage. Courtship  isn’t a formula. Having only observed my sister’s courtship, I can see that ours were almost completely different. Joel and Cait were in the same city for almost all of their courtship. Ezra and I were in the same city for about 6 days of our courtship, so almost all of our interaction was on G+ and email (and some on the phone).
Two courtships, even if one of the people is the same, will never be the same. There will be different things to deal with, different circumstances, different lengths of time. Ezra and I courted for almost 8 months. Joel and Cait courted for about 5. It may feel this way to me since I wasn’t Joel or Cait, but I also feel like Ezra’s and my courtship was a lot more difficult than Joel and Cait’s was. I’ll get into this a bit more farther down.
Courtship does not mean you’re going to get married. It means you’re considering it. If you don’t marry, it doesn’t mean the courtship failed. A failed courtship would be getting married when you shouldn’t.

How did you refer to Ezra?
I still don’t really have an answer to this question. People at camp would refer to him as my boyfriend, and I would say “he’s not my boyfriend,” and then they’d ask what I called him. Usually I would say, “Ezra.”
But I would refer to him as my friend, or depending on the context my family and I would say “suitor” or “beau.”
As long as both of you and the people closest to you – or just people who will see your relationship – know what’s going on, I don’t think it matters what you call each other (or your relationship, for that matter). We wanted to stay away from terms like boyfriend and girlfriend because we weren’t dating and didn’t want people to think we were.

How did he refer to you?
Kyleigh. A couple of times, for the sake of expedience, I referred to her as my girlfriend. But I usually did not, because I have an aversion to the words “girlfriend” and “boyfriend”. Typically, they refer to partners in a relationship of consumer romance rather than legitimate love.

Sometimes, I would speak of her as, “the girl I want to marry” or “a good friend, and she and I are considering whether marriage might be right for us” or “a girl I’m courting”. But of course, all of those are somewhat awkward, especially around non-believers, and always required a further explanation.

What did you talk about?
Everything. Seriously. We talked about things that came up in daily life, what we were thinking about, what we were doing/going to be doing.
I had a long list of questions that fell under the categories of family, personal holiness, calling/gifting, work/future, music, entertainment, politics, food and health, finances, the church/theology, and miscellaneous. I also had questions to ask his family and myself, as well as keeping a running list of things that might be a problem and hills to die on. There was overlap between these categories, but it helped to organize my thoughts and give a flow to the questions.
Under family, we talked about things like size, schooling, lifestyle, and discipline.
Personal holiness had a lot about vision for the future, spiritual disciplines, and the past. Calling/gifting was similar to this, but had more specific questions that were quite specific to things we were talking about.
Music and entertainment are pretty straightforward – music was separate because it wasn’t just about standards for music but passion for it and its forseen place in a future family.
Politics was a pretty small and easily handled area, since we already knew we mostly agreed, and with it being an election year, discussions on that were pretty easy to bring up.
Food and health included things like eating organic, vaccines, medicine, alcohol, and balance.
Finances was so we could talk about things like budget, giving, and more about standard of living.
Church/theology was a jumble of theological issues and thoughts about church-in-practice like leadership, membership, etc.

But the list of questions didn’t mean we sat there firing questions at each other (but we did that once or twice to get through the more straightforward ones!). Sometimes I had to work up courage to ask a question, and other times things just came up or were answered on their own. For example, you may not have to ask what makes him most excited… you may just see it.
Also, there were things we talked about and didn’t have conclusive opinions on or were slight disagreements but not enough that we thought it would be a problem (especially since those slight disagreements were few).

Why didn’t you tell me?
I wanted to tell everyone; I was so excited. But, especially early on, our courtship felt very fragile. Right away there were trials. I wanted to protect it and myself. I didn’t want to have to tell someone I was courting and then two weeks later say “nevermind.” We also didn’t want “prying eyes” or people always asking questions – but we did tell those whose questions we knew would  be helpful, and close friends who could be praying for us, and who knew us well or were wise and we’d be  seeking counsel from.
And then later it was less fragile and we started being more open about it, but we still wouldn’t just tell anyone. I did tell a lot of people at camp, first because they’d be seeing us together, and second because there’s a lot of room for help and teaching in the area of relationships at Csehy, and it was a great opportunity to share about godly relationships with guys.

There were small hints of it on my blog, but it was very subtle – things like referring to Skype and G+, Ezra commenting often, etc. I wanted to blog it in a way that I would know what was going on for the sake of personal history, but not so obvious that everyone could figure it out.

How did you decide?
It didn’t happen all at once, but over the course of the eight months there was a “growing light” (Proverbs 4:18) as things became clearer. I had a lot of open communication with my parents, understanding how important it was to let them know where I was at – what I was ready for, what I was struggling with, or anything else.
Some people say you need to decide if the other person is the “best one for you.” As time went on, I began to realize I really don’t agree with that statement. It can paralyze you into fearing that there’s “someone better” out there. Rather, seek whether or not you’re equally yoked, and if there’s any reason you shouldn’t marry. For us, that meant a lot of discussing theology, future hopes, and our strengths and weaknesses. I had a list of questions and character qualities, and as the months went on, more and more of those were getting checked off, and in early December, they were ALL checked off. Which was an odd feeling, yet didn’t make me impatient to get engaged because I’d already been made so aware that God’s timing is perfect.

There was a time when I realized I was thinking “I’ll marry you if…” – not in the sense of “if he doesn’t believe in reincarnation” but “if he doesn’t use that term,” or “if he plans to do xyz.” You can’t get married on that kind of condition.

But in the end, I began to understand why people talk about wanting “a sign,” because once you’ve determined there’s no reason you shouldn’t marry, and that it would be a good thing – then it all boils down to whether or not you want to marry the person. It feels rather arbitrary and strange, but it’s not like you go through a checklist and then say “okay, then we should get married.” But by October, I very much wanted to marry Ezra and was just waiting for a few things to finish being discussed and then for him to ask.

So we decided with a lot of time, prayer, counsel, and talking – and I think those ingredients should be there for everyone, though exactly how it looks will be different.

It is a little different for a man, I think, to make this decision. Typically, the fact that a man goes after a woman means that he has already, in some capacity, decided that he will marry her if the courtship reveals it to be a wise choice. Such was the case with me, anyway.

How did you and Ezra meet?
There’s a post on “our story” you should read!

What were things that were really helpful to you?
People telling us they were praying for us
Proverbs was always helpful, but three verses were particularly important to me. Proverbs 21:30 reminded me His purposed would prevail. Proverbs 4:18 helped me understand how the courtship process is like the dawn – growing brighter and brighter. It wasn’t a one moment decision, but a process of coming to understanding. And Proverbs 19:2 was always timely when I was rushing .
The hymns “Be Still My Soul,” “Jesus Lover of My Soul,” and “O Love That Will Not Let me Go” were also helpful and important, and were full of truths I often clung to. Another song I prayed a lot and used as a springboard for further prayer was “Dear Refuge of My Weary Soul.” Even now, it always comes to mind when I’m weary.
Prayer. Remembering my acceptance into God’s family. Remembering His love for me. Receiving godly council, especially from my father and Kyleigh’s father.

Did you keep track of your writing/talking?
You bet! Here’s the log!  (The numbers of writing do include emails to friends and family also, but most of it is between Ezra and me).
156,372 words.
327 typed pages.
71+ hours of talking.

Did it change your relationships with other guys? 
Not really, and if you have healthy relationships with the opposite gender, I don’t think it should very much. I was more careful in my interaction with other guys, but after a “settling in” stage, everything was how it had been before.
I still treated guys as brothers and was able to talk comfortably and intelligently with them, though I still held myself back and didn’t share the inner workings of my heart with them – things that to some extent I could share with Ezra. Actually, I think it made me more comfortable around other guys because I had no reason to think of any of them as anything beyond a brother and they also had no reason to think of me as anything other than a sister, since I was “taken.”

I’d grown up guarding my heart – treating young men as brothers but not getting attached emotionally, but if I did, striving to hope in God and fill myself with Him and what He wanted me to be doing now. That never changes. Either you don’t think romantically about anyone, or you’re limited in how you think romantically about someone (courtship, engagement), or you can think that way about one person and have to guard against all others. There is a time and a place for love, but it must stay in its place or it loses its beauty, now or later – or both.
A good resource on guy/girl relationships and friendships is “It’s (Not That) Complicated” by Anna Sophia and Elizabeth Botkin.

I want to put in a word here about guarding your heart. A lot of the time it becomes legalistic. “Don’t do it because you’ll get your heart broken,” or “You need to save your heart for your husband,” “you’ll build bad habits in the way you think about guys.” And while there’s truth in those, there are much more important reasons. We want to keep our focus on God, and we want to keep the sanctity of marriage.

Don’t play around with relationships that are to make you feel good or have nowhere to go (ie, dating before you’re ready for marriage, whether that’s lack of a job or lack of maturity). Those relationships are almost always self-centered. You want to be loved, so you seek it in a person and not in God.
Those also tarnish marriage, because how we approach marriage should be with seriousness. Marriage is a lifelong covenant that is a lot of work. It’s a picture of Christ and the church, and when you treat marriage and romantic relationships lightly, then it loses that weightiness.
Did it change his relationship with other girls?
Essentially, no. If your relationships with the opposite gender are conducted with propriety and honor, the only change is that you are no longer looking for someone once you have found your future spouse (or even once you are in a courtship).

Words to those in a courtship, from things I’ve learned:
Don’t regret trials. When troubles came, they were hard and I always wished it was easier. But in retrospect, I can see how they helped us understand each other and learn about forgiveness or how the other thought. It was also good because I was able to see how great Ezra is at helping me through these difficulties.
I wouldn’t trade all of the trials and anguish for the joy of having pursued and won Kyleigh’s heart by putting God and His kingdom and righteousness first in the courtship.

There are little things that will make your friendship stronger and will make you want to think “we were meant for each other!” – let them make your friendship stronger, but just because neither of you like coffee doesn’t mean you’re a good fit. But, if you get engaged, they can be things that allow you to see how great you are for each other. For us, those were things like he was interested in Rwanda, and I had a bunch of African stuff in my hope chest. Or, he had named his car Hezekiah, and that was the name we jokingly used for my future husband (turns out there’s more of a story to that than I thought, but that’s for another day).

Always be in prayer for grace to take counsel well. As your courtship progresses, it will be harder to think straight and listen well to others, but it’s no less important.
One of the reason that so many Christians end up with broken hearts and scrapped relationships is that they see the relationship as a private matter between boyfriend and girlfriend. It is never a private matter, least of all before covenant love has been established. Success comes by the wisdom of godly council (Prov. 15:22).

Trust each other, but more than that, trust GOD. See that God is at work, the Spirit is active, he is satisfied in and seeking God, and make certain your hope is in God and not a good marriage.
Learn the difference between a red light and a yellow light. A red light is something like unrepentant sin and unaligned conviction that would say it would be wise to end the courtship. A yellow light means slowing down to consider things more carefully, but they may or may not be a reason to end the courtship, depending on the circumstance. This was an important distinction for me to learn, since for a while I felt like I was pushing through things that were warning flags – so I had to distinguish between “stop” and “slow.”

A word of encouragement for the days when nothing seems to be happening – every day is one day closer to a decision. Be patient. Little by little you’ll start to find an answer. Don’t rush it. If you’re impatient like me you’re not used to having to wait for a decision, but you will have to. But the light will grow until you know. If it ends without marriage, you may wonder why you didn’t start with whatever it was that ended the courtship. But learn from the courtship, and don’t consider it a failed courtship, because if you agreed that marriage isn’t a wise choice and ended the courtship, then you did well.
If you do decide to marry, you’ll wonder why it had to take so long. I wondered that myself, but am glad we had those months of learning about each other. The things that came up and the way we worked through them, though hard, probably accelerated our courtship.

There will be times to “practice” for marriage – times to forgive each other, times for you to wait for him to lead, and times to work through difficult things. Don’t neglect those things, but work through them carefully.
As time goes on, the courtship may get easier, but life at home may get harder, and not daydreaming will, too. At first it was easy for me not to daydream. My mind was so full of other things. But then it began to seem more real and I really needed Ezra’s reminders not to idolize the other person or hold too tightly to the courtship, but to put God first.

That’s incredibly important. You will be tempted often to idolize the other person. I don’t mean that in the sense of thinking the other person is perfect (that wasn’t a problem for Ezra and me. We’re both aware of some of our own faults and also faults in each other). But you need to be content with God. A good way to test that is to ask yourself what your reaction would be if the courtship ended without marriage. I could tell when I was holding on to “us” too tightly if I would be devastated if that happened. That’s not to say you wouldn’t be sad or that it wouldn’t hurt, but if your focus is on God, you will be content in Him and also will probably have a better perspective of what’s going on.
Guys – it is your job to wait patiently for her while she is weighing things out. You have asked her to leave her life and join yours, which is no small thing. You must give her the time and also even do what you can to let her know that you support her in her need to weigh things out and seek godly wisdom.

A word of encouragement for those “waiting” for a husband – first of all, don’t “wait.” Be active and fruitful wherever God has put you. You’ll find it so rich, joyous, and wonderful. And secondly, be encouraged at how God brought Ezra and me together. It was long, strange, and unexpected, but really shows His sovereign hand in bring people together when He wants them together.

Words to those considering courtship: 
Courtship is hard. Some days you’ll feel like 100+ things are being thrown at you at once. But it’s so worth it.
I wondered a lot at first if I should get married. There was so much I could do being single, and I loved life in Dubai, and I didn’t feel like I needed to be married, though I knew I wanted to. I had been reading in 1 Corinthians and thinking about singleness, and wondering if I should get married. But then I realized that ultimately, my calling lies within a family, and that in many ways Ezra’s needed a family. “Live as you are called,” Paul says. Some have grace and faith for singleness, some for marriage. Don’t judge those with other gift, but weigh carefully your desires and motivation for either marriage or singleness – and rejoice in whatever God gives!

Words to those on the other side of courtship, or watching courtships: 
If you had an easy courtship, try to understand when people are in a hard one. There were times I was unsure whether or not we were going to get through the next day, and so when people would make excited comments about us or not be aware of how hard it was and treat it like a walk in the park, it was hard.
You can help us by restraining your words. I know it’s fun to comment about how cute we are or ask when we’re going to get engaged. But we’re having to guard our own thoughts to not think too much about those things. Many times I didn’t proof-read an email for fear of my fingers running away with me and saying something I shouldn’t yet. Restraint is hard enough without others making comments. (I’ll give you some leeway if you knew it was coming. My brother-in-law and sister were talking about us like we were engaged when they were visiting in October/November. But Cait had been asked a question about a ring, so she knew it was coming – but I didn’t, so it was still hard for me).

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2 thoughts on “Our Story: Q&A.1

  1. homeschooledlady says:

    I’m glad you posted it today instead of on the 22nd – I couldn’t wait to see your answers.

    Anyways, I so very much enjoyed this. VERY good questions! It was really nice to see more on what you and Ezra think about marriage and courtship and more about some of your beliefs i.e. holding hands, etc, etc.

    I found it interesting that you two didn’t like to call each other “boyfriends” and “girlfriends” because right now I don’t think I would prefer to call someone “boyfriend” and I didn’t know why…until now. “…they refer to partners in a relationship of consumer romance rather than legitimate love.” – (well said Ezra!)

    I actually thought those Skype mentions on some of your blog posts were about you Skyping your sisters and when Ezra began commenting often, I just assumed that since you two families knew each other, it was normal. (I figured that you knew the Dunns since saw a picture of you hiking and Arthur was in the picture (at that time, I was like…”Huh? You two know each other?) but then, I guess you started mentioning them more and other pictures followed, so…)

    Thank you for the advice on guarding our hearts…you pointed out the bigger picture that I didn’t see before until you told me before and I think it is wonderful you mentioned it, since it is so related to marriage and courtship.

    I think that it is so GOD that you two had such a god-glorifying courtship. I am so happy for you both and may God bless your marriage in a very special way. I pray that you two would both continue to such encouraging witnesses for Jesus!!

    Blessings! Megan

    Like

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