Modern-Day Heroes

It’s hard to move 19 months after you moved to a place. It’s even harder when that place is where you made your first home as a married couple, walked through your first pregnancy, and began the journey of parenthood – all supported and surrounded by loving people, who loved you when they barely knew you and didn’t relent in their loving when you were getting ready to leave.
It’s also hard to leave the first friends your baby had – the one that looks like her polar opposite with the ‘fro and chocolate skin, the one who handed down head bands and tries to play with her during church, the one people asked if they were twins – the blue-eyed fair-skinned blonde fall-babies of GBC.
As I think about leaving behind yet another place and another set of friends, I’m reminded yet again of what Eleven said in Doctor Who:
“We all change. When you think about it, we’re all different people all through our lives, and that’s okay, that’s good, you gotta keep moving, so long as you remember all the people that you used to be. I will not forget one line of this. Not one day. I swear. I will always remember when the Doctor was me.”
We may be leaving our home here, but we won’t ever forget the people we love here and everywhere. It’s hard to leave, but it’s easier when you remember that leaving doesn’t mean forgetting and starting life in a new place and enjoying it doesn’t negate how wonderful where you were before was.

As I look back on the last year and a half and the people we have had the privilege of knowing here, especially at church, I have thought a lot about the people who have taught me so much by their lives, from when I was a child through to today.
I keep thinking of a stanza from the Getty’s “O Church Arise” –
“As saints of old still line the way,
Retelling triumphs of His grace,
We hear their calls and hunger for the day
When, with Christ, we stand in glory.”

Some of those people I’m not in contact with much any more and we’ve grown apart. Others I have sporadic contact with but it’s the kind of friendship that we can just pick up where we left off. Most of the ones I write about below I don’t know that well but the way they live inspires me.
In “A Sacred Sorrow” Michael Card wrote,
“The deep things of the faith we learn less by didactic principle and more through people of faith and their simple stories. After all, the gospel is not a systematic/theological presentation to which we give assent or not in order to become “believers.” No, it is a story, which we enter into even as it enters into us. We, iint eh most real and literal sense, become characters in this ongoing incarnating of truth and of the gospel. Its story continues to be told in and through us, and along the way we begin to understand.
“I believe the same kind of incarnational process is at work in understanding lament. Eventually, when we are struggling to explain a difficult topic like prayer, faith, or perhaps servanthood, we resort to naming a person who incarnates that ideal. … When we seek to understand discipleship, we think of someone like Deitrich Bonhoeffer, not because of his book on the subject, but because his life and death validated everything he spoke about in his writings.”

I’ve found that the people I want to learn from most don’t have lessons they can teach you very well. The things I respect and love and want to emulate in them aren’t usually things they can tell you. They’re often lessons learned through trial. These people are often ships battered by many storms, yet coming out triumphant through the guidance of Christ.
There’s the woman at church who lost her husband to cancer soon after they remarried after they had divorced, and said “grieve, but don’t be downcast.” (Among so much other wisdom I can’t remember).
And another who shared wisdom on marriage (that also applies to parenting) – “He’s not irritating, I’m irritable.”
And the mother who commented that she had nothing to share about parenting, then said – “Jesus, help me! That’s my advice.”
And the one who stayed with her unbelieving husband, holding on through difficult times, and then God changed his heart.
And Amanda, who died of cancer a year ago, whose hope of heaven and joy in Christ was so beautiful to see as she shared her struggles with the church.
My cousin, Kristen, hanging on to life and finding joy in it through Christ despite long-term health issues.
My mother-in-love, who had to take care of new mothers just hours after giving birth to her fourth, braved homes with rats and lands with many poisonous snakes, and is such a wonderful example of godly marriage and parenting (as are my own mother and Mrs. C!).
Mrs. Y, who opened her home to me and gave of her time to let me come in and learn from her, the way they disciplined their kids with gospel, her joy in motherhood, openness in sharing things with me and letting me open up, choosing marriage and motherhood above a career.
The M’s – Mr. M who takes such care of his wife and has taught their sons to do the same, and in it all their use of their home for hospitality and evangelism. Mrs. M who digs down to the root of the issue and turns it so you can see it in the perspective of Christ, who so openly and clearly loves her husband, who has such a great strength from being steeled -yet also softened – in fire of trials where she had to let go and let the Lord work, and trust Him.

There’s M, who my dad discipled and endured persecution by co-workers for his new-found faith.
And my friends who lived in an Arab country filled with turmoil, staying for years after most others left even though it meant being “stuck” there and knowing every day could be their last. They were faithful during the trials, hard though days are with little water, gas, or electricity. These things they gave up and suffered for the gospel – because Christ and the souls of the lost Brothers are worth those hardships.
And two others who the world calls our enemies but who counted the cost yet had great joy in Him as their satisfaction and certainty in their faith in their Lord, a willingness to give their lives if necessary.
And another whose testimony I heard before I met him, how God saved him from a wild lifestyle. I met him and was immediately amazed at his humility, boldness, and intentionality. His favorite question to ask people is “What are you reading right now?” and he uses that to channel conversations to eternal things. He’s ready to be a martyr. He’s ‘planning’ on putting his life on the line in a place where Christianity is unknown – because he loves Christ and His glory so much more than life.

I think it’s people like this Hebrews has in mind when it says the world was not worthy of them.
What a privilege it has been to know each and every one of these, and many more, and some even greater that I just don’t have the words for because they’ve taught me so much (like our pastor’s wife, and my parents, and the C’s).
I’m excited to see who we meet in all of the places we live in the future and how God uses them in our lives.

“I saw what I saw and I can’t forget it
I heard what I heard and I can’t go back
I know what I know and I can’t deny it

Something on the road
Cut me to the soul

Your pain has changed me
Your dream inspires
Your face, a memory
Your hope, a fire

Your courage asks me
What I’m afraid of
And what I know of love
And what I know of God.”
– I Saw What I Saw – Sara Groves

Friday Festivities + Rehearsal

AKA the day before the wedding


{Ezra and I went to the Kettle for breakfast}


{showing them gramma’s property}


{Letchworth 4, exactly six months later}


{empires}


{rehearsal}

… and rehearsal dinner:


{Ezra’s sword}


{the Apricotpie bunch!}

photo credits: Sarah H, Sarah U, gramma,

Dear Ezra


Dear Ezra,

I can’t believe it’s been over a week since we said goodbye at the Y’s and you went back home and I stayed there for a few more days (it’s even been over a week since I called you and we talked on the phone for the fourth time – being in the same country was so great). It feels like it was just yesterday, but at the same time forever ago, since I saw you last. More than that, I can’t believe it’s been a year since we started courting, and I can’t believe I ever hesitated to enter into our courtship. At the time it felt like a step of faith, but I figured God would make it plain in time if it was the right time and person for marriage. And He did.
I’m writing this at almost 4 AM because I’m jet lagged, but the jet lag is so worth having seen you for the weekend and seeing your life and just spending time with you, whether we were sailing, walking, eating gigantic burritos, or anything else. I love being with you.

God has been so good in bringing us together, and in all He’s done in the past year. I’m so thankful for the way He’s brought us from being almost strangers to being on the path to the marriage covenant. And I’m so thankful for YOU.
Your honesty, openness, and courage have challenged and encouraged me, and made our relationship so much stronger.
Your patience and gentleness help me know I’m safe with you and can tell you anything.
Your knowledge in so many areas, be it theology, fire-fighting, sailing, philosophy, or anything else makes me even more excited to spend the rest of my life with you and continue learning from you.
Your trust in God and His sovereignty and putting all your hope in Him is contagious.
Your diligence at work and in our relationship shows your desire to honor Him in everything that you do.
Your reliance on Him to fight sin and live rightly gives me assurance for the future, knowing that everything you do you seek to do by His lasting power and not our own feeble strength.

I love you.

Pro Christo,
Kyleigh

P.S. 262 more days!

Our Story: Q&A.2

{Ezra’s comments are in italics}

How did you stay objective?

I think the fact that we didn’t know each other super well before we started courting really made objectivity easier – that, and how clear we were that we wanted objectivity. Plus, when you’re writing emails, you think about things longer and so your conscience catches up before you send it and you have to really assess if it’s really what you believe or you’re just saying it. Objectivity got a lot harder as our courtship went on, and by October it was really really hard (meaning it was easy to want to brush some issues aside because you wanted so badly to marry them). But that’s also where parents help, to keep you on track. And, I think we were both learning more of what it meant to be fully satisfied in Christ. Ezra was (and is) very good at reminding me of that, and also to not be afraid of a “negative” outcome, since we were both delighting in Christ, and since He was our Lord, no matter what happened we would be fine.

Aren’t you too young to get married?

According to world, yes. But getting married isn’t really a matter of age but maturity.

As far as age is concerned, I’m 19. I’ll be 20 by the time we’re married. My older sister was 2 months over 19 when she got married. Ezra is just over 5 years older than me (and way more than that much wiser!). The world sees marriage as jail, or something to do later – but biblically, it’s a high calling, something worthy and beautiful, and so it is a good aspiration (and both of us are desirous of it!). My mother has trained me very well to be able to be a homemaker.

Maturity is harder to gauge, which is why it’s so vital that family and church be involved in the lives of a courting couple. While we understand the seriousness of the marriage covenant, Ezra and I also feel that with God’s help and the affirmation of our families, we are ready for it.
One thing that shows a person’s readiness for marriage can be how they treat their family, because in many ways that shows how someday you will treat your spouse and children.

Various societies have various expectations concerning what age is appropriate for marriage. In our society, these expectations are mostly shaped by humanistic views of education, family, and egalitarianism, none of which hold any weight for Kyleigh and myself.

Was a long-distance relationship hard?

Well, I don’t have anything to compare it to. We were between 6,000 and 9,000 miles apart for most of our courtship. It was hard, but most of that wasn’t because of distance. I did learn a lot about communication, and grew in it and also grew in opening up faster than sometimes I was comfortable with. I realized how much you can talk about in fifteen minutes, and so not to hold back because “we only had 15 more minutes left.”

I learned that some things are better written than said. Some things are better said than written. And there are things we want to write, but that should be said. Those were the hardest, but I always knew that Ezra would listen well and not be offended by anything I asked, so I was comfortable asking him anything, even though it often took courage. I knew that to have a good marriage we’d have to be open with each other and I wanted to be completely honest and tell him everything (with discretion, of course). And I knew that there were hard things I wanted to ask him to know more about him so I could make a truly informed decision about marrying him. We both needed a lot of courage, and God gave it to both of us, as well as grace to both of us to bear with, help, and forgive one another.

And, it’s nice to have some things in writing so instead of asking again you can just look back over it.

The only thing I see as being more difficult because of distance was priorities. I often felt like I was being torn five directions – family, Ezra, church, ministry, self. A lot of that didn’t have anything to do with the courtship, but sometimes family and Ezra conflicted, when Ezra and I were going to talk but the family was going to do something, or I really needed to reply to Ezra but there was no time for various reasons. So instead of Ezra and family going together like they so often would have if we were in the same city, they sometimes conflicted.

It was also sometimes frustrating not to have every-day conversations, like talking after church or sitting in on other conversations together. But, it definitely had its benefits, too, especially as far as being honest goes. By the time I replied to an email, I had thought out an answer, and my conscience wouldn’t let me write something just to agree.

It will take longer being long-distance. You don’t see them in daily life and you don’t hear affirmations from those who know them well. It will take you longer to get to know each other and to build trust (mostly if you don’t know the person that well before the courtship. The first few months of our courtship could almost be considered a “pre-courtship.”). What I did to help with building trust was to email some of the people who knew him well – his family, mentors, friends, and churches, to find out more about him. It was helpful, and I learned a lot about him. I’d recommend talking to people about the other person even if you aren’t in a long-distance relationship.

What did you learn?

The short answer is patience and reliance on God. But those two things showed themselves in so many ways. I was definitely sanctified. There were a couple of times where God let me see the depths of my heart, and it was not pretty. But then He was there, helping me through that and changing me.

The providence and sovereignty of God became much more real to me as I saw it in action. I began to see His perfect timing in bringing us together. There were ways we both needed to be sanctified before we could start courting. Then in our courtship, He used hard things to draw us closer together, and to renew and transform my mind by the truth – because until your mind is renewed, you can’t discern the will of God (Romans 12:1-2).
I learned about prayer and action, learning how to pray deeply and listen while I prayed. I still struggle with that, but courtship brought me to my knees crying out to God in a way nothing else has.

I realized a lot about positive emotion – how when it’s in the bounds of wisdom and scripture, it can be a good and even helpful thing. Also, it was strange being allowed to think about a man in a special way. It took me a while to get used to that.
I also learned that him leading doesn’t mean I can’t ever ask questions. He’s not going to know what’s on my mind, or what I want to talk about, so there are times I need to ask him. But then I quickly went off the deep end of asking too many and had to pull back and let him lead.

I learned how important trials are in sanctifying us and also in His wisdom and plan for everything. I think if it weren’t for some of the trials we had, our courtship would have been much longer. The hard things sped up getting to know each other in a way nothing else could have.

What were are ways you wish you had been better equipped beforehand?
I wish I had been better at praying. I’d prayed a lot before, but it was more of lists, not wrestling with issues in prayer. I’d never really prayed for any sort of decision before, and then suddenly I had lots of them, and I realized how lacking my prayer life was (and still is, especially now that the hard decisions are all over).

A person can always say, “I could have been wiser and more godly.” But in truth, though I felt weak often, I never felt unequipped. I certainly did gain a much better understanding of how I will someday help my own children to step through the courtship process.

What’s the difference between this and storybook romance (say, Anne of Green Gables)?

This is way better. 😀

More seriously, one thing that often happens in books is that a couple is in love, so they start courting, or so they get engaged. There’s a degree of truth in that, but it’s not fully true, especially for engagement. I would never truly admit to myself or anyone else that I loved Ezra until we were engaged.
Another thought is the verse in Proverbs that says “an honest answer kisses the lips.” I know it’s a crazy sounding verse, but Ezra didn’t win my heart with flowers and presents (though the things he has given me are very, very special to me) – he won it with his honesty and character, and that will remain if we have no money for presents, or forget birthdays, or whatever comes our way, in Christ, that character will only grow more priceless and wonderful. Our love is built on a covenant and other things that last, not romances that will fade. It’s hard. Even books that write it realistically and don’t ignore the hardships of love may not help, because it feels so different when you’re going through it.

So, my opinion still holds: don’t read too much romance – be it a romance novel, a book with lots of romance in it, or just too many books that have small romances in them. Let everything be as surprising as it can, and be who you are and let him be who he is, not trying to be Anne and Gilbert or anyone else.

It included a lot of difficulty; its “sweetness” was directly dependent on whether we surrendered it to
God; I never called Kyleigh “carrots”
; the first thing that caught my attention about Kyleigh was her virtue; it is not the ultimate thing in our lives.

What attracted you to each other?

When we started courting, I knew I was interested in Ezra, but unlike most courting couples wasn’t really thinking “I’d like to marry him.” It was more of “from what I know of him, I’m interested in knowing more to see if we should get married.” So the first few months were kind of a pre-courtship but were still courtship. But what did I know of him at that point? I knew he loved his family, respected my father, sought to protect and help his sister, had similar convictions regarding things like college, women in careers, etc., and I knew that his poetry was wonderfully deep and God-centered (and his review of the Hunger Games was good and wise). I also knew we were raised similarly, had a lot of the same tastes and interests, and probably had similar convictions in most areas, from what I knew of his family.

As our courtship went on, I began seeing that he was thoughtful, balanced (something I have trouble with – I like black and white, not middle ground), sought God first, and wanted the same for me. I could also see his honesty and that he wasn’t saying things just to agree, because he brought things up that he thought we might not agree on – his intent was godly marriage, not just marriage. And as I began to see more of how we are equally yoked, more of his character, and heard affirmation from his family of that character and conviction, attraction grew. I could keep going for a long time, but those are the biggest things.

Kyleigh’s virtue, modesty, devotion to truth, and love of God.

When did you first say “I love you?”

The first time he told me “I love you” was a few minutes after we got engaged, and the first time I told him was probably right around then. We knew it wasn’t appropriate for a courtship, which is based on objective truths, conviction, and character rather than feelings, so we didn’t want to muddle things with emotions (though it still did get muddled with emotion just by the nature of a courtship, but that muddling was minimal and we sought to fight through them and be led by truth and not emotion, though sometimes the emotion and truth did go together).
We also understood that while we were moving towards the possibility of marriage, we weren’t “promised” yet and so the level of commitment to declare love wasn’t there.

That’s not to say it wasn’t hard not to say anything before then. There were times it took a ton of self-control not to, and there were times I was thinking it constantly. The main time I remember was at the end of September when he was driving across the country, and I couldn’t help but wish that I could tell him, so that if something happened to him on the drive, he would know I loved him. But I also knew we needed to wait.

I was never worried about his interest or affection towards me, since I knew that if he wasn’t interested we wouldn’t still be courting. And I was glad that we waited, since it made the courtship easier because it was objective and I didn’t think “well, this is something we need to weigh seriously, but I really love him so it won’t be a problem.”

However, there was a time when “love covers a multitude of sins.” There were things that if they had happened or I had known them early on in the courtship, I probably would not have had the heart to push through – these things weren’t necessarily sin. Sometimes they were, other times they were slight differences or just something difficult in the path. But by the time we got there, it was worth overcoming them.

Ezra said this earlier, but I wanted to put it here again: 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”.

 

When did you know you wanted to marry him?

I knew I was interested somewhere between late 2010 and mid-2011. But even when we began courting, it was still just “interested,” since I didn’t know a whole lot about him. It was somewhere between August and October. Before August, my thoughts were so consumed with the things we were working through that I didn’t have time to daydream. After August it was harder to not think about getting married because we’d worked through the major humps, and by October I really had to guard my thoughts. So by then I knew I wanted to marry him, but until we were engaged I never said we would get married, even if people asked. I would say probably, but since we weren’t engaged I couldn’t say yes.

Since you talked about defining courtship, how have you defined your engagement?

Engagement is the period of time when you can get to know the other person on an emotional level and in a more intimate way as far as the thoughts that you share, etc. On the practical side, it is a time during which the wedding must be planned (in all of its glorious and terrible detail).

In some ways, it is the beginning of the marriage covenant – almost a “mini” or “pre” covenant that says we will get married, and this time in between is to specifically prepare for marriage to each other, and also prepare for a wedding. It is a longer engagement that either of us would choose in ideal circumstances, but we don’t have ideal circumstances.

I am still under my father’s authority, so while Ezra has permission now to “go after my heart,” there are still boundaries, some that we have chosen and some that my parents have counseled us to use.

We have decided to limit physical contact to hand holding, at least for now. As our wedding gets closer, we may decide to allow a little more physical contact, but since the covenant is not “complete” then there’s still not freedom to “do whatever.”

Excerpt from Ezra’s post on my ring:

While Kyleigh’s ring does indicate to others that she is engaged, it does this by implication rather than by direct meaning. It is not the relationship status bar on facebook. Rather, it is a symbol of the sacred covenant which is being formed between us. By implication of the covenant, we are engaged. However, the ring symbolizes the covenant, not the “relationship status”.

When a man gives a woman a ring in modern western culture, this is typically seen as “going to the next level of relationship”. But in giving Kyleigh her ring, we began our relationship as an unbreakable union (Matt 19:6), symbolized by the fact that the ring and the diamond form an unbroken circle.

Note: to be clear, the unbreakable covenant of marriage is not yet formed between Kyleigh and myself. However, in the interim, the ring symbolizes our promise to finalize the covenant on our wedding day.

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).

Our Story: Moving Forward

{To read the rest of our story, click “our story” in the category cloud. Ezra’s comments are in italics}

Morning of the 23rd we went to the desert with friends. The sand was hot so when we started going up a big dune we’d run a little ways and then stop to sit and take our feet out of the sand.

Eventually we made it to the top. The sand was cooler on the top, and on the opposite side. Ezra and I were a little ways away from everyone enjoying the view, and apparently he was about to propose when I said we should go join everyone else up higher. We did, and a few minutes later I asked Hannah if she wanted to come with us to the top peak. We started heading out, me in front, then Ezra, then Nate – I’m not sure where Hannah was – and then Ezra – without me knowing – told Nate to go back to everyone else. At this point, Nate realized what was happening and did an excellent job of keeping anyone from following Kyleigh and me. One of the girls was wondering why she couldn’t come up to the top with us and then she, like everyone else (except me), realized what was happening.

When we sat down on top, I thought everyone else was just taking a long time and didn’t think anything of it. He told me the other night when we were looking at stars with Andrew’s telescope he had had a breakthrough on the poem he was writing. He asked if I wanted to hear it and I said yes, thinking nothing of it. He started reciting it, and when he got to “Which everlasting, seem, to you and I,” he looked at me and I wondered if it might be a proposal, but didn’t really think so until he got to “two souls joined into one” and then by “of bride and groom in glory yet to be,” I was thinking of Hodel’s statement in Fiddler on the Roof, “I think you’re asking you to marry me.” I didn’t say anything, not knowing if it was just a poem, or if I was supposed to say “yes” or what… and then he said “And there’s one more line,” then fished the box out of his pocket and said “Kyleigh, will you marry me?” I said yes, and we smiled at each other for a little while and then stood up. Everyone cheered as we came back, and we stood there talking to everyone for a while before we walked back to the cars – holding hands for the first time. I was so clueless that he was going to propose that day that I didn’t bring my good camera, only my old one.
Truth be told, even though I had practice the poem a number of times, I still fumbled a few of the lines. I was extremely nervous, but I couldn’t tell how much of my heart pounding was due to having just sprinted up a sand dune, and how much of it was due to what I was about to ask.
In the car on the way home a few hours later we talked about the symbol of the morning glory and the vine on my ring and box. The morning glory, like marriage, is something that fades and doesn’t last forever – and yet it’s attached to a vine, which is Christ, and marriage is a picture of Christ and the church. The morning glory is the shadow, and the vine is the glory.
At home we emailed our friends and smiled a lot and then got ready to go to the mall – we decided we’d go to Paul’s for dinner and then meet the rest of the family for gelato after seeing the fountains. Our drive out was joyous and then we found Paul’s… our first date! We got juice and I had salmon and he had duck and we talked and saw glimpses of the fountain and tried to wrap our heads around that it was real, and talked about the “arbitrariness” of the end of a courtship, how after all that hard heart-wrenching stuff it boils down to what we want.

{Watching the fountains from Paul’s}
We finished eating and walked down to the fountains where we walked around and stood in a quiet place. Then we went to Book World for a bit before going to meet the family at Morelli’s. We drove home with Nate, who decided a synonym for love birds could be “llama ducks.”
At home we talked in the kitchen with mommy and daddy about some wedding plans… so exciting!
People keep asking me if I was surprised – I was expecting him to propose sometime on the trip (because although different, I didn’t really want a Skype proposal!) but I wasn’t expecting him to propose when he did. I was so clueless that I left my good camera at home. But I’m glad it was then, in the desert I love so much, with people I love so much.

The 24th we had people over for dinner, so much of the day focused on that. But we had time to watch Rabbi Jacob, walk to the store, look through my Hope Chest, talk about home décor, finish looking at my kids’ books, look at Jordan pictures, skype the Kadys and Dunns, and cook together. Dinner was with people from all over the world – “united nations.” So glad he could share that culture with me. It was bittersweet, though, to know I’ll have to leave that grand gathering of brothers and sisters. We did the dishes together before everyone went to their rooms, not wanting to wake up on Christmas with a mess of dishes.
Of course, when we skyped them, the Kadys were the soul of dignity, while my own siblings were their normal, rascally and riotous selves. Christmas eve dinner was very special to me, seeing so many nationalities united by the same hope and faith.

Christmas morning was relaxed and wonderful. Opening presents, making eggs and breakfast, and then he surprised me with a dozen roses. After breakfast we finished presents and played Pandemic and looked at my scrapbooks. We made dinner (planning some wedding stuff while we stirred fondue!) and ate before heading out to the desert. The moments were getting sadder since I knew he would leave so soon. In the car we talked with mommy and daddy about some detail things like how communication would change, counseling, being in a brainstorming stage, etc. We talked to other people and talked about wedding (“How about music from “UP?” “I was just thinking that!”). Before singing and the skit started we sat alone together and talked about the past 8 months and how hard they were and how God got us through them and how they made the sovereignty of God a REAL thing to us instead of just knowing. And we talked about how good theology can help you through times of trial, and how when he talked about winning my heart – that he already had, in theology and likemindedness, God had knit our hearts together. And then was the usual carol singing and reenactment of the Christmas story. After a break the sharing time opened up and Ezra and I started it off announcing our engagement and the goodness of God in working it all out.
Then we drove home, and the impending departure really started to hit me. At home we looked at some wedding things on the computer and then we prayed with everyone and mommy and daddy talked to us some about continuing to guard our hearts and also some more about planning and engagement.
And then came probably the hardest, saddest, yet most beautiful part of the trip. Everyone else left for about 15 minutes and Ezra and I were holding hands and talking, barely above a whisper. It was hard, but full of encouragement and though sad, there was joy knowing what was coming. And then we took him to the airport.
Those last few hours, especially the last few minutes, were also my favorite part of the trip, though they were the hardest. It was incredible for me to realize that I had already won Kyleigh’s heart, and that we were already sharing a significant love. It was not by the strength of our own righteousness or the firmness of our own wisdom that God brought us together. It was by His own mercy and the working of His grace in our lives. All praise be to Him for the beautiful shadow that godly love can be, and even more praise for the real thing, heaven!

I’m trying to wrap my mind around all that’s happened in the past months, and can’t – it’s so otherworldly, so GOD. There is no way we could have gotten through this just the two of us, or even with our families and churches. Our courtship was so full of trials that only His grace was able to get us through. It was God bringing us together – from the start, 4 years ago on Apricotpie, to writing Rosie, to the conference in 2011, to leave in June and all the trials we had to work through with theology, distance, the past, callings, the future… And every trial brought us closer to each other – whether we learned to understand each other, forgive each other, or were just strengthened by being brought through the same flame – the flame that shall not hurt, only refine.
As Ezra said in our last ten minutes together – “It is a wondrous thing God has done.”

Our Story: The Next Four Months

{To read the rest of our story, click “our story” in the category cloud. Ezra’s comments are in italics}

Even after all that, we still had one more hump, and it was the only theological disagreement we had, but we weren’t really sure what we both thought, so it was a journey that took a few months as we both read and studied and talked about it and then did the process all over again. Even so, it was a much smaller hump than all the others, since it was a small area of theology.

Ezra began traveling across the country to move. It was a hard 2 weeks, since he had little time to email, but, it was nice because we wrote short emails every day.

In October I began to realize that I really did want to marry him and the slowly growing light was growing stronger. Our calls started getting longer and also deeper. But there were still questions that needed to be answered, and we needed to spend more time together in person, and that was going to be another adventure.

I knew, very early on, that Kyleigh was exactly the kind of girl that I wanted to marry. And we didn’t have to go very far into our courtship, either, for me to find out that she was the girl that I wanted to marry. But in all of this I think that I had an advantage in figuring things out because I had been reading Kyleigh’s blog for a long time, where she had expressed many deep and personal thoughts and convictions; whereas my writings had been much more generic.

He began trying to find out if/when he could get leave. We weren’t sure if he was going to have it until a day or two before he left, but he had booked tickets and we started making plans for his visit. Having been through a much more stressful wait for leave in June, I wasn’t worried over this one. I knew if not now, there would be more time later – it wasn’t like in June when daddy was leaving a few days later. Even so, I really wanted him to come and was holding myself back from getting excited until we heard he was coming

When I got his email saying he’d make it, it was 36 hours until he would arrive. I was so excited, but there were mixed emotions… and then emotions that came out of nowhere. I was excited, but nervous, and worried about the amount of time and if engagement would happen – because I wasn’t wholly sure we were ready yet but I wondered if not now, then when?
I kept singing a line from “The Last Bison”’s song “Tired Hands.”
“24 hours of waiting is not that long!”
And yet it felt forever, although we were making cupcakes and doing chores and babysitting. I wrote emails and practiced oboe and wrapped presents and we had company for dinner.
And then his flight was painfully (an hour) late, and we were waiting, craning heads, heart beating, hoping so much for soon… and then he was there and we were smiling at each other and going to the car and sitting next to each other. So close at last. We showed him around the house and everyone was talking all at once and then everyone went to bed because we were all so tired and it was midnight.

On the 20th we went to the M’s for brunch. I made a wrong turn and we ended up in a near-stressful situation where we didn’t know where we were going or what to do. But we got through it together with the help of my parents on the phone – and with very little stress.

The 21st began with church. He met more people, and we talked more with others. Hope seemed to be mad at us and would not come near us whether we asked her, ignored her, etc. We came home and got ready for the piano recital, which went really well. I was so glad for Ezra to see my students; I love them so much. Before going to the M’s for a wedding reception, we started discussing “the problem theology” and got about halfway through my pages of notes on it.
At the M’s we ate and talked to each other and others. He met more people, some of whom engaged him in deep discussion (and then communicated approval to daddy…), looked at the stars with our eyes and then through the telescope, found Hope hated Ezra because she was jealous since I wasn’t spending time with her… and so we made a plan to reconcile.
The following day, Hope apologised to us in tears, and in a short time later, had drawn me into a tickle fight.

On the 22nd we went to the N’s for brunch – a good balance of talking with Mr. and Mrs. and playing tickle fight with the kids. Then we got ready to go to the ball and were talking some about the future, with pastoring and eldership and life.
We drove to the ball and helped put lights up and fix the sound system, then were talking and walking around. The ball started and we enjoyed dancing with each other and see everyone having so much fun and so many people dancing so well and enjoying themselves. Ezra was off during one of the breaks looking at mommy’s phone and I was wondering if he might propose, but tried not to think about it, even though I’d seen him put a piece of paper in his pocket, and talked to some friends.
I had been planning to propose at the ball, to failed to obtain Mr. Fox’s permission in time, since I hadn’t realized that he would be flying that day. Candace, however, notice a ring box shaped object in my pocket and said, “I know what that is!” which was a frightening experience for me.
But nothing happened, so I stopped thinking about it and assumed it would happen on Christmas or Christmas Eve if it was going to happen.

After the ball we came home and walked to Eat and Drink, where we got delicious food – shawarma, drinks, falafel, meat. We came back and finished our theological discussion and read some children’s books I’d pulled out to look at. Then we turned in relatively early since we were going out to the desert the next day…