Dear Boy Dating Our Daughter 3

portrait-1212097_960_720This is the final installment of “Dear Boy Dating Our Daughter“. This series of letters has been written as a communication tool only as a way to discuss the often difficult topic of dating  with our children, our expectations as parents, in addition to what we hope and pray they look for and be in a potential spouse.


Dear Boy Dating Our Daughter,

Over the months, we have seen you legitimately love our daughter, not merely the idea of love. Your love for her is not conditional, but is based on your mutual love for Christ and the desire to continue to grow both individually and together in Him. The love you have for one another edifies. It encourages, builds up, and comes alongside her in her rights and in her wrongs, in her joys and in her pains; in her ease and in her struggles. It says I am with you through it all; I want to be with you through it all. Seeing love in action like this brings more than a smile to our faces because it is exactly what Christ had in mind when He put the sacraments of marriage into place and you’ve been taking purposeful steps in this direction for some time.

The fact that your relationship bears a sense of security and protection for our girl, in addition to the fact that your actions match your insightful and focused promises to give her your best causes our hearts to swoon. We can only imagine how she feels!

We have seen your “we” identity grow with each passing month so much so that you’ve become nearly inseparable. Marriage is not such a scary word anymore, but one that ignites an unmatched joy. We knew this day–the day you begin building up the courage to ask us for our blessing to marry our daughter– would come. We’ve been preparing our hearts and minds for it since her birth. Even as we held her in our arms, we knew that one day we would be handing her over to another man worthy of her love and devotion.

We began praying over you the day she was placed into our arms and with each struggle, pressure, etc.  she has encountered throughout the years; we knew you very well might be experiencing similar situations. So as we prayed for wisdom and strength for her, we prayed the same for you. Our hope has been that when your paths finally met (and admittedly, we have been eager to meet the man we will one day call son), you would not only encompass strength, exhibit a character that has elements of depth, wisdom, loyalty, unconditional love for both our girl and Christ, but also who is working toward having martial substance to offer our girl.

Plan Ahead

write-593333_960_720We bet your eyes just widened and a subtle fear rattled your heart upon reading the second part of that statement. It sounds a little scary, perhaps resembling high expectations. Yes, high expectations, but not unattainable. Here’s what we’re talking about. If we were to ask you how you will provide comfort and security for our girl as your soon to-be wife, we hope, even if you have not yet reached these goals, that you have prayed and begun planning so that you are ready to present your best, in both character and provision, to our girl at the time of proposal.

One word of caution: plans for provision do not start once an engagement has taken place. An engagement is a time to plan your wedding and honeymoon and fine-tune—fine-tune, not start, how you will provide.

She is your helpmate, but you are the head of the marriage. We expect that you will take the lead to communicate and take action in this area We’re not asking that you be wealthy or have a multitude of material possessions. No, not at all. What we are asking is that you have an idea of the outward tangible affects you can offer her; things that will not draw her into a life of debt and constant worry about finances. Marriage is hard enough without having to wonder where your next meal is coming from or if the roof over your heads will be there tomorrow.

Love is a great start, but it is not enough.

“A groom who knows he is strong inside faith and character stands tall and proud. He is ready to assume the full responsibilities of marriage with deep, inner assurance that he desires and can provide for his wife” (TN).

Roles

It’s important to talk about the roles in marriage and expectations of one another in those roles. Our girl comes from a tradition home where mom cooks, cleans, rears the kids and works part-time. Dad works full time, mows the lawn, and takes out garbage. He is primarily responsible for paying the bills. Your marriage doesn’t have to look traditional. It does have to be something you legitimately see eye-to-eye on and can live the rest of your days resentment free.man-vacation-people-summer-large

We know the two of you talk at length about everything under the sun. You have talked about your strengths and weaknesses as individuals and what those will look like in a family unit. Differences have the ability to bring depth, perspective, and beauty to a marriage so long as you have a plan for how to deal with them and can communicate respectfully.

Conflicts

Tommy Nelson (I’m such a fan) note that conflicts come from one of five sources: 1) a failure to communicate. 2) financial difficulties 3) sexual difficulties 4) problems with the in-laws or 5) disagreements about child-rearing. Take the time now to discuss your expectations in each of these areas and how you will work toward resolving such issues.

rings-481143_960_720Parents’ Promise

We want to assure you that when you are ready to ask our daughter for her hand in marriage and we see your relationship is rooted and established in Christ in addition to being prepared to care for her to the best of your ability, we will proudly give you our blessing. We will not stand in the way to join what God has brought together. We will welcome you into our family, call you son, and rejoice in the celebration of your union. We will not interfere in your marriage. We fully expect our girl to “leave and cleave” and will encourage her to honor you in every sense of the word. We will pray ceaselessly over your marriage.

Marriage

chapel-966557_960_720We believe marriage is a vow made before God to love the person who is standing by your side regardless of what happens (outside of abuse and marital betrayal) and for as long as you both live. God is the “author”of your relationship. He created you for our girl and our girl for you. He is so over-the-moon exhilarated at your union. Without a doubt, marriage is a public celebration of two flawed people coming together, trusting God to be the “completer” of their relationship. A wedding is a sacred moment. Marriage is a sacred lifetime. It deserves honor, respect, attention, and every effort you can make. Start now.

We treasure the gift you are to both our daughter and to our family. It will be an absolute honor to call you son.

Love,

The Girl You’re Dating Parents


Related Posts:
Dear Boy Dating Our Daughter 1
Dear Boy Dating Our Daughter 2
What I Know Now

Dear Boy Dating Our Daughter 2

Last week, I began a short dating series titled “Dear Boy Dating Our Daughter”. These letters will serve solely as a communication tool for my girls. In no way would I ever consider actually sending these letters. I’m pretty sure any boy interested in our girls would run for the hills! I decided to write this series because my own dating experiences were…subpar and completely misguided. It is my hope that my girls don’t date as a way to find their identity, but as way to live fully in who Christ already says they are.


Dear Boy Dating Our Daughter,

We see how you open the door for our daughter, caution her to watch her step when you see an obstacle ahead, how you offer her your coat when you sense she is cold.  We see how you look into her eyes as she talks and how you follow up with thoughtful questions in hopes to understand her better or challenge her to think or see things from a different perspective. You are a gentleman. It seems as if you know that romance and respect are closely linked.

A woman who feels respected automatically feels as if she is being romanced

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We’re not saying be romantic to or with our daughter. We’re saying, be respectful to our daughter. They look different, sound different, and in the end, respect will gain you a girl who will fawn over you far more than if you simply tell her she’s beautiful. If you struggle to show her respect, she will struggle to believe you really care and (eventually) love her. Your choice, but choose wisely.

The more time you spend dating, the greater your respect should become for one another. How and where you spend your time together is critical to the health and success of your relationship. Although you might balk at the parameters we set in place, such as spending short periods of time together, but over a prolonged period—and in a public setting, let us explain why. First, as a built-in safeguard against temptations and secondly, because as you spend time together, you talk about a variety of issues—some deep, some not so deep; you experience one another in a variety of situations that bring out different levels of stress, joy, and comfortableness. If you keep plowing ahead without taking time to digest what you’re discovering in one another, you may miss some valuable follow-up conversations. Remember, dating is an evaluation time. You don’t need to hurry the process. Hurrying always leads to mistakes. We’ve mentioned to our girl that dating is like savoring an exquisite piece of chocolate, not inhaling it.pexels-photo-large

What we know of you so far is delightful. Admittedly, we even get a little weepy because we love seeing our girl so happy. But, we’re cautious still because we also know that ANY MAN can do romantic things for a period of time, be on his best behavior for a season or two, show good manners, even exhibit respect for a while. “A while” or “a season or two” isn’t good enough. Sorry. A real man doesn’t “win” her over and then regress back to animal kingdom! No, a REAL MAN listens and continues to listen, even to the words unspoken. It’s called being present, being intentional.

“Listening is a universal sign of wisdom” (I wish I knew whom to credit for those well strung words).

It nearly goes without saying that good listening results in better understanding. Good listening leads to asking thoughtful questions. Put another way: Good listening plus good questions leads to seeing the person’s inner thoughts and convictions. Listening sees the real person. This is where respect will be nurtured and has the ability to lead to a lifetime of mutual admiration.

Dear boy, you have to know we have raise our girl grounded in respect (it is *the* keyword in our house). She will respect you before you have done anything to deserve it. She will build you up, encourage you, support you any way she knows how—and even in ways she has yet to learn. She understands your reputation is the very rhythm of your heart and she will live to honor you in that place. She will always act on behalf of your best interests, even if you do not always see her actions as such. We have raised her to look upon you as “the only apple tree in a pine forest”. You are the object of her delight, but she lives to a high standard—as we hope that you do as well.
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The standard? God’s. Yep, His. It is our hope that you have such reverence for God’s standard that you would honor it and never allow your own agenda or “needs” to supersede His. God has called you to be a warrior—to love our girl as Christ loved the church. God’s plan for you is His best, it’s completely necessary, scandalously ridged, and incomprehensibly rewarding. Don’t let anything sneak in to spoil the purity of your relationship. This requires constant evaluation, endlessly battening down the hatches, unceasing prayer for protection and strength.

Obviously, we’ve talked all about sex without actually mentioning that awesome three letter word! To paint a better word picture, I’ll borrow Tommy Nelson’s analogy:

“Would you set a fire in your living room? No? Do you have a fire place in your home? If you have a fireplace, you likely set a fire in your living room, but you keep it contained in the device made explicitly for keeping a fire contained—your fireplace made of brick, glass, and metal, with pokers and screens all designed to keep the fire precisely where you want it. That same analogy applies to sexual fire in a relationship. Keep in bounds. A fire kept in bounds provides warmth, happiness, and comfort. Out of bounds it destroys everything in its path”.

man girl bikeDating is exhilarating. We love that you are investing in our girl. Please pace yourselves, not because we are crazy, slightly over-protective parents (!), but because ultimately you desire to live out your relationship according to God’s plans, not yours—not even ours. Eventually, the two of you will develop something so precious—a “we” identity—this is what we call the sweet spot. It’s where you’ll shine more brightly because you’re working together, pulling together, dreaming together. This togetherness is worth fighting for. Warrior on!

Love,

The Girl You’re Dating’s Parents


Related Posts:
Dear Boy Dating Our Daughter 1
What I Know Now

Dear Boy Dating Our Daughter 1

Preface

From the time I was a little girl, I knew I was meant to be a mother. My greatest fear, other than the dark, at nine years old, was that I would die before I would marry and have children. I made my list of “must-have qualities”  for my future spouse and hoped and prayed that such a man existed. To be completely honest, in the beginning, a lot of guys existed that met my simple-minded criteria, but with each new crush or Lifetime movie that aired on TV, my list stretched and evolved into one that vaguely resembled my 1980-something list! Thank God too, or else I would have ended up with someone like Dukes of Hazard’s hottie, Bo Duke played by John Schneider (not that there’s anything wrong with a flannel wearing, muscle-car jumping, justice fighter!!!). Ironically, I did marry a Schneider. I like to think of this as God’s nod my way!
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The good Lord was kind to me by bringing Dennis into my life when He did because I was starting to fret no one would want me, the real me. I was 18, so this thought now, seems utterly ridiculous! Thinking through some of the false beliefs that plagued me back then and the actions I took in response slay me now. In hindsight, I still would have married Dennis because he is such a remarkable man of God and loves me better than I love him, but I would have done things differently—correction, not “things”, EVERYTHING differently. I learned so much about myself, about the beauty of God’s redemptive grace and forgiveness, and so much more that it has 100% changed how I look at dating, my own daughters, and their suitors! To date myself and to channel yet another 80’s TV program, The A-Team, “I pity the fool” who desires to date my daughter! (I’m totally laughing at myself!!!)

Actually, I don’t! Dennis has jokingly said to the girls on multiple occasions,
“God and I will get together and let you know when we’ve found a man worthy of you. Until then, stop looking”.

I don’t want my girls to settle for less than God’s best for them and because they, or at least one of them, is boy crazy like her mama was, I know how easy it is to overlook some traits, justify others, and imagine others are seeds just ready to spring into existence. I know red flags when I see them, quite possibly because they look a little like long-lost friends!

So over the course of the next few weeks, I will be writing a short series of letters to the boy(s) my daughters will someday date. Of course, I will not actually give these letters to the boys. They will serve more as a communication tool for my girls.


Dear Boy Dating Our Daughter,

Before we even met you, we liked you. We liked you because you saw something of great value in our daughter. Sure, her twinkly brown eyes and darling dimples drew you in the moment you saw her. Her readily, contagious, boisterous laugh where you can literally see all her teeth at one time– and even, if you’re close enough—and you’ve no right to be yet—see that she still has her tonsils, made you want to know what her secret is to genuine happiness.

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Look at the joy!

You’ve seen that she’s strong, determined, and will stand up for herself and for justice at all costs and in the next moment you’ve seen her giddy “as if carried by the wings of euphoria”. She’s a dreamer and adventurer, while being grounded in logic and reality. She loves to push the limits, but also has unfathomable respect for the rules. She loves deeply and quickly all whom she allows into her small, guarded world. She is the perfect balance of tenderness and strength. You see that. You like that. And it scares the crap out of us…because we have to trust you. We have to trust that you’re going to protect her heart. And that means putting her needs ahead of your own. This is hard and sometimes doesn’t seem fair. You’ve no reason to believe us, but we promise, she’s worth it! She really is. We hope you can not only live with that, but find joy in living a warrior’s life.

One of the things that scare us about you dating our daughter is that relationships often begin based on physical attraction, affecting all our senses. And as wonderful as that is—and it is, it leaves a relationship incomplete; empty.  If you base your relationship solely on physical attraction, your relationship will only be as deep as that beauty. It will be pretty…but shallow. We want more for our daughter. We want more for you.

You might not hear many parents say this, but we really want you to get to know our girl from the inside out. This takes time, lots of time. We will give it to you freely. We will not hold you back. We will encourage and support this relationship, but also, like a new bowler, we will put bumpers in place, in hopes to guide your relationship towards its absolute best, not as a way to confine you. It takes spiritual discernment and objectivity to understand and genuinely know a person’s character and spiritual nature, so it is our hope that you take the time necessary to know what makes her heart tick (her innermost beliefs, goals, dreams, desires) and that you will encourage and challenge her to grow to new heights. We desire that she’ll do that for you as well. Relationships grow and change, morph and stretch. When they don’t, they’re in trouble. We’re rooting for you! Don’t get into trouble.

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On that note, you have no idea just how much we have prayed for you over the years (since her infancy).  We know you have your own story, joys, struggles, pains, and past. You will find no judgement here because we know these things have chiseled and deeply etched your heart, bringing to the forefront a character that otherwise may not have been revealed. It is our hope for you, let alone our girl, that your story is being manifested in holiness, honesty, morality, temperance, and commitment. In short, that you are in the process of becoming the man God destined you to be. Not for our girl’s sake, but for yours.
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We should not have to remind you that she is a princess; flawed, certainly, but her identity cannot be found in those flaws, but more so in Who Christ she says she is–and He calls her daughter!  If you do not see that, then it was nice knowing you. I realize that sounds harsh, but life is too short to hope and pray that one day you will see her value. She is worth more, far more, than you are able to see right now. If you do see her as a princess, you know that her virtue is her gift to you and her character is meant to compliment yours. These are only two of the three foundational pieces in which to begin building a relationship. The third? Gosh, we hope we don’t have to tell you!

Faith! You cannot, cannot have a healthy and lasting relationship without Christ being in the center. Ecclesiastics 4:12 points out that “…a cord of three stands is not quickly broken”. Living out your faith together will draw you closer together than any other thing in the world. And not to keep quoting scripture, but Proverbs 27:17 reminds us that “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another”. It is our hope that the two of you cultivate a beautiful, intimate relationship with Christ and live your faith out loud. We pray that you would stand by one another as you both pursue all that God has in store for you as individuals and as a couple, and that you would be obedient to Him first and foremost. No guy or girl is ever worth compromising your faith! If she pulls you away from Christ in any way, kick her to the curb. Clearly, she isn’t ready for you!

Genuine faith brings forth a servant’s heart and is quick to give to others, go the extra mile, offer help, volunteer in the face of need. Having a servant’s heart is one that lives to give–for others; never for self or to gain. We live to this standard—however, imperfectly. Pastor and author Tommy Nelson says it perfectly when he says, “A godly person with active faith, who is quick to serve has the full stamp of approval by God”. If this is how you live your life, you too, have our approval!
hands-437968_1920We want the best for our daughter. We want the best for you, too. And to both of you, we would advise that you don’t settle for less than God’s best for you. If our girl is not meant to be your someday-wife, that’s OK. We are not putting the cart before the horse here at all! Gosh no! But we would ask that you keep in mind that one day she will be someone’s wife, someone’s mother. How you treat her, speak to her, show her love and respect—she will take with her into each of those relationships. You will be part of her story. If you eventually part ways, leave her better than you found her; leave her believing in herself a little more, and ultimately, leave her a little closer to Christ. But we hope you won’t leave her—because we kind of like you too!

Love,
The Girl You’re Dating’s Parents

 


Like I mentioned in the preface, I am not really sending this letter to my daughters’ significant others. How mortifying would that be for them?!!! This letter hardly scratches the surface of all I would like to communicate to such suitors, but it begins the important conversations.

I would love to hear your stories, the advice your parents gave you, the advice you wished your parents gave you. What would you tell your own son/daughter about dating?

What I Know Now

pexels-photo-largeWhen I asked my girls’, “What should I write about this week?” Both responded simultaneously, “Tell us how you fell in love with Daddy”.

So at my girls’ request:

It wasn’t love at first sight. How could it be? I was eleven. He was twelve. And we had never spoken a single word to one another, let alone made eye contact. And yet every day after lunch, I literally held my breath as he would pass by my class where I would be waiting outside with my peers for our teacher to let us in. I knew nothing about him other than he checked box 1 on my list of “must have qualities” when his reeling attractiveness found in those incredibly beautiful hazel eyes and dark hair strutted by. I spent insurmountable time thinking and dreaming of him, and even ducked into the girls’ bathroom to freshen up my cherry flavored Lip Smacker and enormous bouffant, I called bangs, with super-hold Aqua net Hairspray. I suppose I thought if he noticed me, I would stand a chance. What I didn’t know then that I know now is that any girl simply attracting a boy with her looks might not attract the quality guy she desires and vice versa.

I thought of him off and on over the next couple of years, but rarely saw him once he moved onto high school. However, in 1990, about 4 years after my initial stocking encounter, during his senior year and my junior year, we ended up having a class together. By this time, I didn’t really like him, but my heart didn’t get the message and still skipped a beat when our paths crossed– and I still carried my Aqua net for just such an occasion. He had made quite a reputation for himself as the star relief pitcher for our school’s baseball team. His ego preceded him; he was downright cocky–and that squashed the initial attraction I had for him. However, box 2 had been checked, because being athletic—‘nough said. I guess in some small way; I was still hoping there was more than meets the eye with him. Deep down, I felt there was. What I know now that I didn’t know then is that sometimes people over compensate to hide their inadequacies or pain. How a person appears to be in one setting is not necessarily who they are on the inside.

Ironically, it was the two of us always getting into trouble in the class we had together. He was the class clown and I was the only one caught laughing! Check box 3: I love a guy who can make me laugh! Between having to do push-ups and sit at a banquet style table pushed up against the blackboard at the front of the class as a consequence for our disrespectful behavior, I realized I was, in my awkward way, flirting with him. I wouldn’t have gone out with him though. Worlds colliding—introvert, hot-mess-me and cocky-popular-seeming extrovert him—it would not have worked. What I know now that I didn’t know them is that opposites attract and if you are meant to be it will work out, even if it comes at a high cost and a lot of work.

He was awarded a scholarship for baseball (still loving that box 2 is checked) and went to an out-of-state college. That was that. I dated, fell in mad like with someone I thought I would marry and your dad did not cross my mind for a full year. The next fall, I started classes at a local college, and because it was local, I looked around to see if I would know anyone. And there before my eyes, stood your dad. And again, my heart skipped a beat. I walked over to him and hit him—don’t worry, it was one of those playful, flirty hits we girls do from time to time. He looked me in the eye and smiled. He smiled– and my heart melted. Check box 4: A contagious smile—it didn’t matter that his teeth were jacked up; it actually made his smile all the more lovable. He asked how my summer was and I proceeded to talk all about how I had replaced the alternator in my 69 Chevelle SS (love me some muscle cars!). His eyes glazed over, so I kept talking (this is why people don’t believe I’m an introvert). What I know now that I didn’t know then is that not all guys are into cars and when a girl works so hard to impress a guy, she might be over compensating for her own inadequacies. auto-1346834_960_720

Your dad did not sit next to me in class and I knew I blew it. I spent my first class of college learning a lot—just not about Psychology—well, maybe it was Psychology, just not from the instructor’s lecture. What I know now that I didn’t know then is that real life experiences will often teach you more than a book (but don’t discount the beautiful truths found in books—a good many have changed my life)!

Unexpectedly, your dad called me two days later and asked if I wanted to study for an upcoming test. Check box 5: My guy must spontaneous! I could hardly speak. I agreed to the non-date-study-date for Saturday and looked forward to wooing him. Writing my genuine thoughts here for you, I am asking myself, “What the hell is wrong with you? Woo him? It was a study date for Pete’s sake—and remember you don’t even really like him”! (Also, I might be the last person on the planet to use the word “woo”) Friday after classes, I was walking down the steep hill to the lower-parking lot, lost in deep, reflective thought as the sun shone down on me, adding to the all-over warmth I was feeling that day, when all of the sudden my moment of tranquility was disrupted by what some would call music. All I heard was bass! Bass, my dear children, is only one—count it—one–part of music! I turned to look who had such god-awful taste in music and there…wait for it…was your dad wearing his Ray Bans with one wrist draped over the steering wheel of his low-rider truck. I hoped he wouldn’t see me and I started to turn away when he gave me the ‘sup-nod. I wondered in that moment if a date, study-date or otherwise, was just a waste of time. Clearly, we were not a good match. What I know now that I didn’t know then is that we are often closed minded and judgmental of the things we see and hear and assume our way is best and right.
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Though I didn’t think your dad and I would end up together, I was incredibly intrigued by him; so much so that I couldn’t get him out of my mind, so I left our study-date in place. Saturday came and I cleaned grandma and grandpa’s house, literally scrubbing the floors on my hands and knees. I then showered, did my hair and make-up, but then chose to wear sweats. This was very intentional. Very. I wanted to look my best, but not appear like I was trying too hard. What I know now that I didn’t know then is when we are focused so much on our outer appearance, often we are not working on the inner aspects of our heart.  I was not emotionally and spiritually working to be the best God desired me to be for my future husband. However, I rocked a good pair of sweatpants—if that’s even possible!

I was not the only one trying too hard to look casual. Your dad showed up wearing a mamba sock, which is the 90’s version of a do-rag. He had his ear pierced and was sporting (I use that verb so loosely here) a huge earring of…prayer hands. Was it cool, you ask? Uuuuuhhh not in the slightest. I am dying laughing as I recall this image that he dawned for quite some time—which literally caused your grandpa to run out of the house to warn grandma about the hoodlum their precious baby girl was “entertaining”!  My list had a box labeled “fashion sense”. I am certain I don’t have to tell you this box did not get checked. What I know now that I didn’t know then is that sometimes boys try too hard, just like girls and that the image we work so hard to achieve is often not the image of Christ.

I heard your dad arrive before I saw him. Know how? Bass! I rolled my eyes and thought, “Here goes nothing”.  As bizarre as I found him to be, I also knew there was something worthwhile there. I ran out to meet him and before we even walked back into the house he turned to me and said, “Hey I’m hungry. Can I take you to dinner?” Check box 6: My guy needs to be generous. So we went, the two of us in his low-rider; he in his mamba sock and I in my sweats. We were the definition of “hot mess” before that term even came into existence. I wish we had thought to take a selfie. Oh, wait! Those didn’t exist—or cell phones—or even email. Though that dates us, it does not change what a journey toward love sometimes looks like. We talked about this and that for hours, literally hours, (check box 7: good conversationalist and stellar listener) when he finally approached the subject that terrified me most: music! Flash backs of just the day before flooded my mind and I pensively squeaked out “I love music, just not rap”.  He listed group after group; groups like The Smiths, Talking Heads, The Beautiful South, Ten Thousand Maniacs, etc. most of which I was unfamiliar with. He saw the doe-eyed girl sitting across from him, evaluated her, maybe took pity on her, and slowly eased her into his love for all genres of music, starting with the Beautiful South, which I loved. (Check box 8: sharing his passions with me). We talked for hours like we had known each other forever. What I know now that I didn’t know then is that there is a whole world to be learned through the perspective of others. Our perspective is often incomplete.

I’m sure you’re dying to know about our first kiss. It was…uneventful to say the least. I wish I could say that the skies parted and angels sang as sunbeams bounced off our embracing bodies (don’t say, “Eeww”), but instead, I was on the phone, mid-sentence, when your dad leaned in for a quick kiss. You’re familiar with my gigantic horse teeth, right? Well, so is your dad! I quickly hung up the phone and we had a do-over. This is where you could say, “Eewww” because it was damn near magical. I didn’t actually write this on my childhood list of “must-haves”, but heck, check box 9 for obvious reasons. I asked your dad later why he chose that moment to kiss me. He said he had been watching my lips for some time and he just couldn’t wait a second longer. Almost sweet. More impulsive though, which is the exact opposite of who you know your dad to be! What I know now that I didn’t know then is that reality rarely matches our dreams and sometimes your first kiss is bad. God’s grace landed us a pretty great second kiss though! Another thing I know now that I didn’t know then is that it’s really hard for guys to take the lead and we need to be both patient and gracious.
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Over the next four months we didn’t study a bit! That first study date was all about biology, but not the kind you find in a text book or under a microscope! I was smitten with your dad and fell for him so quickly it scared me. I didn’t want to lose him. I would do anything and everything for him, even sacrificing little things like sleep and big things like my self-respect. (read between the lines, my loves). What I know now that I didn’t know then is that true love really does wait. Girls that feel they have to compromise their morals and values or let go of them all together either by pressure or by their own initiative are not in a healthy relationship. Our choices remain with us forever.

On my 19th birthday, he sent a dozen roses to my workplace. Having worked at the town’s grocery store, people asked me about them all day long. I literally gushed and blushed all day, and honestly, the more I talked about him, the more I loved him. The next day, the day after this romantic gesture, he took me to Lookout Point, better named “Make-out Point” a place known for…hummm…how do I say this tactfully for my sweet children…a little nooky. No nooky took place, no hand holding, no kissing. Instead, confusion and tears filled that little low-rider as I sat listening to him break my heart. He said he thought he loved me, but he wanted to take a break to see if what he was feeling was really love or just infatuation. I rolled my eyes, but had to accept his words. I was devastated. I felt my heart would never be the same again.  What I know now that I didn’t know then is that guys are really stupid sometimes. Wait! I knew that then! What I know now that I didn’t know then is that even guys struggle with their feelings and need time to process! I also learned that a broken heart is never wasted when we learn more about who we are and what we genuinely need in another person. Some guys are worth waiting for.

Time passed and I was stuck sitting next to him in assigned seating. I can’t believe I passed my classes, because I am pretty sure I didn’t hear a single lecture due to my wildly nervous heartbeat. I wrote your dad a poem a few weeks after our breakup. (Yep—that’s the kind of hot-mess I was back then–kind of wish I was still that girl), gave it to him at the end of class, and ran to my car, like a little girl. It was practically the equivalent of the “Do you like me? Yes, or no?” notes we wrote in third grade; though slightly more romantic. Slightly! I drove home, biting all my fingernails off, praying that he wouldn’t reject me again. He called and asked if I would come over. I can only point to the fact that my Chevelle’s awesomeness got me there in record time. When I arrived, he opened the door, and just like you might see in the movies, he boldly said, “If you take one step into this house, you’re saying yes to forever!” Check box 10—romantic! Me in my overalls, because I was still working that angle, took the most pronounced step ever over the threshold and said with the biggest smile, “OK”. And that was that! What I know now that I didn’t know then is that if it is really meant to be, it will come back around.

We dated several more months, incessantly talking about every topic under the sun. Your grandma even remarked how we talked more than teenage girls—and we did. Daily, for hours and hours at a time. Then one day, it dawned on me that we had never talked about what we were going to school for.  I was pursuing my teaching certification in special education and he…wanted to be a pastor! A what?!!!! Well, that did it. I was not cut out to be a pastor’s wife. And, my goodness, he definitely was not cut out to be a pastor—I mean don’t you have to take a polygraph test and be holy and pure and— this was not the life I wanted. We argued and in tearful frustration, I yelled, “Well, don’t ask me to marry you, because I will say no”. Don’t get me wrong, box 11 had been checked a long time ago when I learned that his faith was genuine and that he loved the Lord, but marrying a pastor…that was a box some other girl had on her list, not mine. What I know now that I didn’t know then is that God has given each one of us a gift, and a dating couple should talk in depth about the compatibility of those gifts early on. gift-553139_960_720

The next day was Thanksgiving of 1992 and your dad brought me to grandpa’s church, the church we attended, which was completely empty (and cold). He suspiciously locked me out of the room, which totally upset me and brought to mind the argument we had had just the day before. What I didn’t know for several minutes (and it was minutes) was that he was struggling to light the candles he had brought. Once he did, he unlocked the door and grabbed my hand as he escorted me to where the candles were arranged among a dozen pink roses and a white box tied with green yarn (green yarn!!!! Is that not totally endearing all on its own?!). I smiled and thought, “There is that sweet surprise element of his again”! Then I cringed because I had not thought to get him a Thanksgiving gift. I reached for the box and began to pull the green yard off the box, but he stopped me to ask if I had smelled the roses. Glancing up at him, I responded, “Yes, they’re beautiful, thank you”. While keeping my eyes locked on his, I bent forward and smelled them again for good measure. I began to pull at the yarn and again he interrupted, asking, “But did you smell this one?” It was as odd as it sounds and as I looked up at your dad, I could see he was trembling—like really, trembling. It was cold in the church, but not so much to warrant such trembling. To humor him, I exaggerated my smell of the rose he was pointing out and there nestled inside a pale pink rose was a solitaire engagement ring. It was my turn to be impulsive and so before he could even say a word, I jumped up and yelled over and over again, “YES! YES! YES!”. He reached for my hand and said, “Wait! I haven’t even asked you yet”. He then had me sit and he slowly kneeled, seeming to compose himself a bit, and proceeded to tell me everything he loved about me and how we would always talk things through and how it would be hard, but it would be worth it, and I believed every word he said. I had forgotten all about the box with green yarn until he handed it to me several moments later, saying “This is actually something for both of us. It’s going to be hard, but I believe in us and will do whatever it takes”. Inside the box was a workbook titled, “Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts”. Check Box 12: hard work doesn’t scare him; in fact, he embraces it. What I know now that I didn’t know then is that God’s plans are bigger and better than ours. He can take our differences and make them beautiful. Your dad and I complement each other, complete each other in the most remarkable ways. I also learned that marriage is work and the sooner you start working on it, the better!

I was over-the-moon in love and happy and looking forward to a bright and beautiful future as Mrs. Dennis Wellman Schneider. On August 20, 1993, box 13 was checked—as your dad promised to love me as long as long as we both shall live. He isn’t afraid of commitment or hard times because He trusts in God’s sovereignty and knew long before we said, “I do”, that a marriage made of three strands is not easily broken. I could write about the 23 years that have followed thus far, but I don’t think I have to tell you how the story ends! He’s my happily ever after, my lobster, my love you more. What I know now that I didn’t know then is that praying together is the best way to bond two hearts together and when God is truly in the center of a marriage it puts everything into proper perspective. pexels-photo-large

I’ve learned a whole lot of lessons; most I never saw coming primarily due to my naivety, and many I could have avoided if I had taken the time to cultivate the person God designed me to be before diving into a relationship. I’ve learned that not all boxes will get checked. I’ve learned that some boxes will appear that I didn’t even know I needed. Your future spouse is not something you order from the GoodToGod Catalog (you like that, don’t you?). Creating a checklist is not such a bad place to start— for yourselves, beginning with Proverbs 31. Ask the Lord to nurture those qualities in you so that when the right guy comes along, you’re not starting behind the eight-ball, like your dad and I did. I sit here praising God for His merciful grace over our marriage and hope so much that when you look to us, you see Him there too and are encouraged to weave a tapestry of three of your own one day