marriage

I'm Single and I'm Good With It

I'm Single and I'm Good With It

Friends and family and well-meaning strangers, thank you for loving me so well. I know the heart behind your comments is one that is good and pure, but just know that I'm alive and well and happy and confident and content in my singleness. Please hear that.

Wild and Free

I swear, if it weren't for #fireworkpeople and the season of my life full of Twitter parties with creative, fired-up women all over the world, I don't know where I would be. SO many incredible online friendships came out of being part of that community, and I'm grateful for them every day.

Annie is one of those friends-- from the very first times I saw her name pop up online in my feeds, I knew I wanted to be friends with her. Then, I discovered that she's a gluten-free vegan like me, and I knew having something as crazy as that in common would pretty much guarantee we would  get along!

This girl is just the greatest. I've been a fan of her and followed her blog for a while now, and knew when I relaunched Story Seeker that I wanted her story in the mix. Selfishly, I just wanted to get to know her better and really get to be good friends with her. I knew she would have an incredible story to tell, and I was right. The story she's sharing today is beautiful and made me fall in love with the city she loves and writes about. The stories we continued to swap over long and honesty emails were incredible-- there are few things I love more than two people openly sharing the ways the Lord has been working in their lives and the connectedness and closeness that comes about as a result.

Annie is so full of joy and it's evident in everything she writes and says. She's someone who truly makes the most of every single day of this life, adventuring and exploring and trying new things and loving people and places so so well in the process. I'm pretty sure everyone that meets her instantly loves her-- she's so warm and inviting, always quick to encourage, support and let others know that they are beautiful and beloved. She's like a sunbeam that dances around life freely and confidently. I love that about her.

I'm so grateful that I've gotten to know Annie, and I'm so honored to share her story with you.


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I’m Annie. Newlywed twenty-something with a knack for sassy comebacks, sleeping in past my alarm and dancing awkwardly in public. A lover of exploring, encouraging and passionately pursuing dreams. A lover of Christ, animals and really, really good gluten-free bagels. Trying not to waste this one precious life.


I grew up in the land of the Chesapeake Bay, where black-eyed susans grow wild and free, and the spice factory downtown fills the humid, summer air with a delicious spicy scent. I grew up in the land of water, where you romp in the Bay with your rambunctious friends in the dog days of summer, you catch your own dinner of blue crabs and you ride bikes in the street after dark.

I grew up in the city of baseball, a stadium filled with orange and black, a triumphant cheer of “O” during the last line of the National Anthem rises from the crowd. The city of neighborhood upon neighborhood spilling together, hill after hill, to create a sprawling span of city pouring out upon the earth. Each neighborhood uniquely different and distinguishable, brightly colored row houses, cathedrals-gothic and mysterious, historic monuments left from the past for us to cherish. I was raised in a city where brightly colored dragon-shaped paddle-boats spotted the harbor each Saturday, your dad takes you to the busy, pulsing market for lunch and ornately-dressed horses pull carts with produce through the streets. I’m from a land of history, the birthplace of the Star Spangled Banner, the stories of Edgar Allan Poe, and the talent of Babe Ruth.

I grew up in Baltimore and this is the land I’ve always known.

When I was in high school, someone graciously did me the favor of removing my rose-colored glasses, and subsequently all wonder with the city, so I could join the masses and see the city for what it truly was- Dirty. Dangerous. Racist. Trash floating in the harbor. Six shootings in the city last night. Mugging in the park. Teenagers stole the city bikes again. Homeless on every corner. Lowest high school graduation rate in the country.

I was clearly living in the dark. They were right, how could I ever have found this place to be beautiful? My innocence and wonder grew dim and my heart became cold.

When I graduated, I knew college out of state was my only option. Maybe everyone else was complacent enough to stay here and just complain about the conditions, but I am a go-getter and I was getting out. So I moved to the First State, Maryland’s tiny neighbor to the east. The land of no shopping tax, main streets and small town festivals. Delaware.

After one month of living on campus, I quickly realized moving away to college was not exactly how it was portrayed in the movies. It actually was nothing like the movies. I felt small and stupid for being bullied by the people I lived with. Doesn’t bullying only happen to kids in the throes of puberty? I started to spend as much time as possible outside of my dorm. Coffee shops, a random nook in the student center, a bench on Main Street, the dining hall, the grass on the other side of campus, anywhere I could hide with my journal and pen.

As I ran away from the problems at my dorm, I poured out my heart to Jesus, a Friend I had found when I was 17 at Young Life camp while staring at the stars. His Love overwhelmed me and for the first time, it felt real. And he began to heal years and years of insecurity, hateful self-talk and pieces of my broken heart. If he could heal that, he could certainly heal the mess I was in now. I was alone, exhausted from running, and I could feel the seams starting to come loose, the seams that Jesus had so tenderly sewn to piece my heart back together a year earlier.

 As I poured out my heart and told God that this isn’t what I wanted, that I was miserable and I couldn’t take one more night sleeping on the sofa in the lounge, I felt a whisper from within. “Home” and I felt a sudden, sharp ache for something familiar. “Baltimore. Go home.” That was my answer? Leave? Quit? Become a transfer student? Not many excited college freshmen dream of the day they’ll give up all their hard work of college searching, essay writing, financial aid meetings and awkward new student orientations just to pack up, leave and head home.

After praying, and seeking advice, I made the call to transfer to Towson University, become a commuter student, and move home to Baltimore. When I finally made the decision, my heart leapt with a joyful dance and an ugly heavy pressure disappeared from my shoulders. I packed and sang and smiled as I told everyone the news that I was somehow thrilled about- I was going home to Baltimore. 

And I moved home. I started classes at my new school. Once a week, I headed downtown to get coffee alone and relish in my new excitement to live here. And guess what? I got my rose-colored glasses back. I started to see the beauty in the cobble streets, the hometown pride in every passerby wearing an Orioles jersey, the story of every homeless person, the murals on every street corner, the quirkiness of every small neighborhood. My heart beat in time with the pulsing of the city. I was where I was meant to be.

A few weeks into my first semester, an old acquaintance from my time at Delaware called me. He had just received a job at the National Aquarium downtown. Could I show him around? Of course! I intercepted him before someone could pull him aside and convince him to join the crowd in seeing the worst in the city. No. Let me show you the beauty. And I did. And he saw it. And he took my hand and told me he was with me in this. He would help me love this place.

I’ve been back in Baltimore for three years now. I’m now married to the boy from the Aquarium. He did what he said. He’s helping me love this place. We live 10 minutes from the city line. This is OUR place, now. My heart melted as he agreed to move from Delaware to Baltimore, as I watched him fall in love with this entire area, as I felt our hearts both begin to beat in time with the city.

In April, my heart was shattered into somewhere between a million and a billion pieces, as I watched my city burn on national television. I watched our people- angry, hurt, confused and outraged- destroy their own community. I watched our leaders, freeze, not knowing their job description came with handling riots and police brutality, while CNN reporters crowded our beautiful streets, like hungry animals, waiting to pounce on the first person to make a wrong move, and perpetuating a sense of unnecessary fear.

The rest of the nation may think we are still burned to the ground. They may pity the people who call this barbaric city home. They may criticize our leaders, and our people. They may cancel their plans to visit. They may wait in the shadows for the next soul to make a wrong move in the management of our city. They may think we have nothing to offer. That we are empty, ugly and poor.

I am not naïve. We have many issues in our city.

But while they were distracted with the negative, they were never moved to tears when they saw their community come together the next morning to sweep up the glass from broken windows, and broken hearts.  They never witnessed people sitting on their stoops, praying over the city in a time of darkness. They never saw the police officers playing basketball with kids in the worst part of the city, weeks after the national news lost interest in Baltimore because things stopped burning and people stopped looting, so there was nothing to report anymore.

They’ve never smelled the sweet, salty air of the bay and the spice factory mixing together in the air to form a cocktail that is meant to be sipped slowly through a deep breath, as you stroll the cobble streets of Fells Point at dusk. They don’t know the best coffee is on Pratt Street or that all you have to do to make a friend here is buy them a Natty Boh. They are unaware the most breath-taking view of the city is on Federal Hill and watching a sunset there might change your life forever.

Their hearts don’t thump with hope as they walk the city streets and know something better for this city is right around the corner. They don’t see the colorful dragon boats spotting the harbor again, the sound of laughter and street music in the air, wrapping around you like a warm hug. They don’t laugh with the neighborhoods of the city, as the hills run madly over the ground, packed with history and lives and stories and beauty. They don’t see the black-eyed susans growing, wild and free.

But I do. 

Live, Learn, Love.

Last week, I shared a story from one of my favorite couples about their first year of marriage. Today, you'll hear from another one of my favorite couples about their fifty years of marriage.

The couple sharing their story today have impacted my life from the very beginning in incredible ways. They have raised a family I am so proud to be a part of and left a legacy of love that I aspire to have myself someday. They are my grandparents and I'm so blessed to have them in my life.

Even though I grew up in Arizona, far away from Northern Virginia where my grandparents live, so many childhood memories include them. We saw them at least about once a year, and they always made me feel so loved, cherished and special. I remember sitting with my grandma on the couch in their living room and the sound of her voice as she read to me, I remember how all of the play kitchen toys smelled like cinnamon and allspice because she gave me empty spice containers. My grandpa always has his pockets full of peppermints to pass down the aisle to every one of us at church, he always shakes everyone's hand and introduces us proudly to his friends-- he knows and loves everyone. He always greets us with our first and middle names in his booming voice and always asks for a hug or a kiss, and won't let you get through the front door without one.

I remember picking blackberries near their house as a kid with their miniature schnauzer tagging along, exploring the creek in their backyard and catching crawfish, playing rowdy games of pounce around the kitchen table when everyone's in town, watching slideshows of all their old pictures and laughing at the hilarious haircuts and fashions throughout the years, driving my grandma's new convertible when I was 16 and so jealous she had a cooler car than the minivan I got to use, countless cookouts on their deck with the best food, Christmases with a live tree and more presents than we ever asked for and Grandpa's seemingly bottomless Santa sack of extra gifts for everyone. 

They took me on one of the best trips of my life after I graduated high school-- 8 days in France that I'll never forget. They helped me buy my first car, they gave me a generous gift of spending money during my summer in London, they gave me old couches when I got my first apartment on my own...they are the greatest gift givers I know, and I'm so deeply thankful for their generous and selfless hearts.

My grandparents make everyone they meet feel loved. Whether through sending Christmas cards to friends they haven't seen in years or cooking feasts for the ones in their home or giving gifts or finding quality time to spend with each of us, I know we all know without a shadow of a doubt how deeply they love and care for us all, near or far.

Every time our family gets together (which thankfully is so much more often now that we live within two hours of them), I love hearing the stories of my grandpa's years in the Air Force and how my mom and my two uncles grew up living in different places around the world. I love hearing about my grandma's childhood on a farm in Ohio and how she and her twin dated the man the other is now married to.

My grandparents are uniquely different as individuals, but together, they are a strong and loving couple and they just recently celebrated fifty years of marriage. We celebrated with a huge party with all of our extended family flying in to town and all of my grandparents' friends gathering to mingle and dance and laugh for hours together. Seeing that ballroom full of people that know and love my grandparents made my heart swell-- they have made lasting impacts on the lives of people young and old all around the world in their lives and through their relationship, and it was such a beautiful thing to see. 

Just recently, they went on an RV road trip for two weeks to relive the honeymoon road trip they took 50 years ago, and wrote this story while they were adventuring around New England. How cool is that?!

Their marriage is one I look to and admire, one I hope my future marriage might come close to matching. I love them both so much and am forever thankful to be a part of the wonderful family they've raised.

My grandparents (dancing like they love to do) at their 50th wedding anniversary party in August

My grandparents (dancing like they love to do) at their 50th wedding anniversary party in August


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Here is Kay and Ken's story of their marriage.

 

 

In the beginning of our marriage we were just getting used to sharing space with someone else and learning what it was like to accommodate to another's needs and wants.  Suddenly you become a twosome and not an individual any more. 

Even though I am a twin and grew up sharing home, family, friends and everything else with someone, being married was different.  With my twin I felt completely comfortable, like she knew me inside and out, like I knew her. We had always been together, even in the womb, but living with a man that I had only known for a year or so and had limited time with was so different. 

We grew up with different patterns of living, different interactions with family members and had different life experiences and tastes.  Now, as newlyweds, we needed to learn to adapt our individual lives to someone else.  We had to learn how to compromise, give a little, not always do things our way.  We had to learn how to appreciate where the other person was coming from, We realized our tastes in decorating our home, the foods we liked to eat, the way we wanted to raise our children and the things we think are important were different from each other.  We had to get to know and get along with each other’s group of friends. We also had to make new friends together that we both could enjoy. We became each other's best friend.

Being newlyweds we had to learn patience with each other, how to know when the other person needed more attention, love, and understanding.  We had to learn how to share our living space and tolerate differences in what TV shows to watch, what movie to see, what to do in our spare time. 

But now, after fifty years, we have adapted totally to each other. We can tell what the other one is thinking, and we sometimes are thinking the exact same thing at the same time because something triggered a similar reaction or thought. We know how to be patient with each other, to know when to give the other one their space, to accomodate to each other in so many ways that we don’t even realize we are accommodating. 

We have learned to like similar things and to accept that we won’t be doing certain things we may have done ourselves because we know that it is something the other one wouldn’t enjoy.  We do this because we want to please the other person. If we didn’t learn to compromise, adapt, have patience, and most of all love the other person the way they are and not try to change them, our marriage would have fallen apart.

Marriage is a two-way street, both partners need to do these things and find out through trial and error what works for them and their marriage.

In the beginning, passion is strong and it takes little to spark the fire.  After fifty years together, the passion has died down a little but the spark is still there and can be rekindled at any time.  Each marriage is unique in itself and will require different adjustments to make it work.

There are always ups and downs, good times and bad, in all marriages. But we have learned what works for us and we are happy, fulfilled, still in love and have celebrated 50 wonderful years together. 

When we got married we promised to love each other in sickness and in health, for better or worse until death us do part.  That is a promise we both took seriously and have kept and will continue to keep.  

Learning. Growing. Loving.

I was a freshman at James Madison University and I had just been to my first InterVarsity Large Group where I had signed up to be in a small group. Just a few days later, a paper had been slid under my dorm room door with pictures of Jessie (the cowgirl from Toy Story) and two girls I had never met, with an invitation to dress up like a cowgirl and come to a volleyball tournament.

I went, totally unsure about the whole thing (who plays volleyball dressed as a cowgirl?! I had no idea what I was getting myself into), and met Vianne for the first time. She was bubbly, energetic, so warm and welcoming, and just plain happy to meet all of us, and I remember wondering why in the world this girl was so excited about a silly volleyball tournament. I remember thinking then that she was probably a little crazy, but I also wanted her to be my best friend someday.

As a freshman, I was very closed off to the idea of being close with people (especially girls) having gone through a lot of really painful and hard drama with girls in high school. Now here I was, in a small group of a whole bunch of girls I didn't know. Even though I stayed guarded, kept everyone at a distance, and just gave my perfect Sunday school answers during our discussions without revealing anything personal, Vianne never gave up on me. If I had been in her shoes, I think I would have, but she never stopped seeking me out, never stopped asking me to get lunch or coffee, never stopped trying to get to know me.

Despite all of my best efforts to push everyone away, by the end of my first semester, I absolutely loved Vianne. She was an incredible small group leader with the biggest heart for our little community, a gifted teacher who knew the Word inside and out, a beautiful worship leader with amazing talent, and the greatest friend.

In January of 2011, I wrote in my journal, She has the best advice and the best encouragement and I'm just in awe of the incredible people like her that God has blessed me with in the short time I've been at school. Later that year, I wrote Thank you for Vianne, thank You that her arms are always open so wide to me and that she is so faithful and grounded in You-- she is such an encouragement and a beautiful blessing to me.

Vianne absolutely radiates joy that so clearly comes from the Lord. That contagious spirit of joy was the very first thing I saw in her, and it's one of my absolute favorite things about her. Her heart is so deeply rooted in and intertwined with the heart of the Father. She loves relentlessly, from her big and amazing family to all of us girls in her small group to women all around the world that she's never met. Her heart beats for justice and I've never met someone so dedicated to fighting for it any way she can.

We met almost weekly for most of the three years we were at JMU together, and they were my most cherished times. Everything about her spirit was calming and encouraging and so beautifully authentic. She was the first person to truly invest in me wholeheartedly and walk beside me in my faith day in and day out, and her friendship has forever changed me for the better and shown me more of who Jesus is and how He loves us. 

There was nothing Vianne and I wouldn't talk about together-- from my ridiculous relationship drama to her relationship with Jeff (the kind of relationship every single girl in our small group envied and hoped for), from missions trips and talking about fighting sex trafficking to studying Scripture or homework for our Old Testament class or just laughing together-- the hours we spent in TDU or in coffeeshops are the hours I'll always remember most fondly about life at JMU. They kept me grounded and held me accountable in so many ways.

From the time I met Vianne, she was dating Jeff. He didn't go to JMU, but he would visit on weekends and tag along with all of our wild small group to dinner and Large Group and even to dance parties, and although he was mostly quiet, we all loved him and loved his relationship with Vianne. We saw her light up around him and saw how perfectly they complemented each other, and we all knew from day one that they would get married some day.

And then, at some point during the middle of my three years at JMU, they decided to take time apart. I remember sitting in Java City with Vianne and hearing her talk about it and wrestle with the Lord through so much confusion and a deep desire to just follow His will no matter what that meant, and even then, I never doubted that they would be together forever. Their relationship had grown so steadily from a high school friendship to a long distance college relationship, and they just seemed to be the perfect match.

I saw how both of them encouraged the other in their faith and in the ways they were serving and leading in different ministries, saw them grow so much as individuals and as a couple. Even in the time they were apart (yes, they did get back together-- PRAISE), I always knew the Lord had such an incredible story ahead of them with such a perfect purpose in mind. They just fit together like they were always designed to be two halves of one complete whole.

Vianne and Jeff had the most perfect, gorgeous, joyful, Spirit-filled wedding the fall after all three of us graduated, and everything about that day was glorious. She was stunning, radiant, glowing. I think everyone teared up watching Jeff look at her as she came down the aisle. We all cried, laughed, worshipped, rejoiced and celebrated together as a small group, and it was simply a wonderful wedding. I really don't think a wedding will ever top theirs-- it was that flawless, seamless and fun.

Since they've been married, I've loved getting to know Jeff even better. I've visited them in NOVA, caught up over pizzas in Old Town Alexandria, worshipped with them at the church they're a part of, gotten brunch at The Daily in Richmond on multiple occasions, wandered through bookstores in Carytown together...the list goes on. They are my favorite couple to spend time with, and I love them both and love their love so much. 

On their own, they are both incredible, passionate, Jesus-loving, smart, driven and talented people, but together, they're unstoppable. Their love for each other, their church, their families, their community and their Savior is a force to be reckoned with. I'm so proud of what both of them have done through their educations and careers, but above all, I'm so proud to call them true friends.

I'm so excited to share with you their story of their first year of marriage. They just recently celebrated their first wedding anniversary on September 22, and today, they're sharing their story of the past year.

Here is Vianne and Jeff's story.


Jeff and Vianne are (kinda) newlyweds living in Reston, VA. He graduated from Old Dominion University and she graduated from James Madison University before tying the knot and settling down in the NOVA area. Jeff is currently training to be a firefighter for Loudoun County and Vianne is a technical writer by day, and a strict follower of food blog recipes by night.


We said “I do” at the ripe young age of 22.

During the year that we were engaged, we certainly never considered ourselves prepared for what marriage would hold. Sure, we figured we had a grasp on what it would be like to have a husband or wife. To be honest, after four arduous years of a long distance relationship, we were just excited to live together in the same city. We knew we were young when we got married, but we chose to do it because we sincerely felt God’s hand upon the timing of our marriage—we were just hoping to be obedient to Him. What we didn’t expect was for life to coerce us to learn how to love one another in unfamiliar ways; it would draw us together to find that we had much to learn about the person standing in front of us at the altar vowing till death do us part.

 

J: The first few months started out simple enough, although maybe not in the most preferable circumstances. I was a new husband working a part-time job as a head lifeguard for an unimpressive aquatics program, while Vianne worked a static office job outside of Washington, D.C. With unexciting workdays, we typically rushed home to enjoy the comfort of each other’s company as we binge-watched Mad Men on Netflix in our new apartment. Shoot, how hard could this marriage thing be? We were having a lot of fun making memories in our new home during that time, with no major stressors in our marriage other than the conflict of trying to decide what to make for dinner.

 However, after a couple months, the novelty started to wear off as we both began to realize that we couldn’t keep this up forever. I started to get really weary of my lifeguarding job that was only meant to be temporary after moving to the area with Vianne. It began to impact my self-esteem and morale, feeling the sting of being unfulfilled. It affected how I felt in my role as a husband, in an adolescent job that made me feel useless in our marriage.

 

V: Lazy Saturday mornings drinking coffee and visiting the farmers’ market, snow days trapped inside with squash soup, and stealing away from our routine with just a picnic basket and blanket remain some of my favorite memories during those first couple months of our marriage. Yet at some point, I realized that we had seemed to forget about all of our friends and maintaining those relationships after the wedding. We had become infatuated with spending all of our time with each other and were neglecting our friendships. In addition, I found that after growing up in a family of seven and having just previously lived in a house with eight college roommates, living with just only one other person for the first time in my life was a difficult adjustment. Quickly, we realized that my extroverted tendencies did not always agree with Jeff’s introverted habits. “But I need committed friends around me so that they can know my soul,” I would explain to him over and over again. Yeah, he didn’t really understand me on that one.

 Figuring out how to communicate these feelings, among others, was the most vital piece of our first year together. We were forced to realize a lot about one another. We both learned how to listen, how to discern, and how to be comfortable sitting in silence. Most importantly, we had to learn how to make an unyielding priority in our marriage to push each other toward the things that made the other come alive. I had fallen in love with a man whose life flowed from the passions that drove him. He proposed to me because he saw the life I found when in deep relationship with others. I don’t know why it became easy for us to lose touch with those aspects in our marriage. But we had to discover how to support one another and nourish the things that make us who we are.

 

J: We got connected into a local church community and began to grow in our marriage in unexpected ways as we gave ourselves to others. I encouraged Vianne to start pouring back into her relationships and interests, even to include tapping back into her art as a writer. I began the competitive process of applying to local fire departments, and I eventually got hired as a firefighter for a local county government—which was an amazing opportunity to continue a satisfying career in public service.

 Of course, once we both got involved in our communities and new jobs, this meant way less time we had to focus on one another. My schedule as a recruit during firefighter academy was (and is) extremely intensive, and all of a sudden we found ourselves re-prioritizing to manage time for each other again. We had to learn how to love one another in completely new ways. We are still learning.

 

V: It has now been a year, and we’ve discovered that it is the uncertain, anxious, and expectant waves in our marriage that has taught us to love more than we thought imaginable. In faith, we decided to get married when we did because that’s what we felt God was guiding us to do. Today, we have no doubt about His plan, as He has opened doors left and right for us to continue walking forward in the intention He has for our marriage. We still don’t consider ourselves experts on how to do this thing (read: we still have no idea what we’re doing). Our marriage certainly has not been faultless, but we have grown. We have changed. We have loved, and learned. And we are happy.

Tea, A Thursday and Three Couples

I’m at a table in a crowded restaurant, a place I come to write because it usually isn’t busy and the tea is always good.

I’m surrounded by three older couples, nestled somewhere in age between my parents and my grandparents. One couple, I overheard, has been married for 52 years. One couple has been sitting in silence the entire meal, not a single word or even a glance toward one another. The last chose their table because the wife wanted to accommodate her long-legged husband. All three have caught my eye.

The first two haven’t stopped talking since I walked in. There’s a joyful constant banter between them. There’s a crossword puzzle on the table between them, she has the pen, he’s telling her what to write. They have matching coffee mugs pushed to the side, empty and obviously enjoyed. They can’t take their eyes off of each other. He’s telling her stories, gesturing big and wide, and she laughs so much she starts coughing while he pauses until she recovers. Their love is clear, simple, sweet. Their faces are weathered and covered in deep wrinkles that show they’ve gone through much over the years. I wonder if this is their weekly routine, if this is their spot, if they always share crossword puzzles and coffee like this. I look at them and see the kind of love I hope to have--the kind of love that doesn’t need a five star restaurant and a fancy date and a big show of things, the kind of love that they can’t help but share with the man clearing away their plates.

“They say every man is entitled to one good dog or one good woman,” the husband said. “And me, I’ve got them both.”

Pure gold. If I ever write a country song, that will be the chorus.

The second couple, they’re the silent ones. Maybe the words have just run out between them. Maybe the years took them away, silenced them. Or maybe they’re just tired. Maybe each other’s company is all they need tonight. Maybe that’s enough. Maybe this is their routine, too, and they just don’t need to fill the air with talk about this crazy rain or if their food is good. I look at them and wonder what their story is, wonder why the talking’s gone and they don’t even make eye contact.

The third couple, their love is familiar, selfless, accommodating. She beelined straight for the table by the window, but then turned for the table in the middle of the busy room, saying to her husband, “you’ll have more leg room here, you’ll be more comfortable.” He passed his baguette over to her when she finished hers so she would have more to dip in the soup she still had left. They shared a smoothie, passing it back and forth. They’re wearing matching Teva sandles and their cheeks are rosy in all the same places like they’ve been sharing sunlight and adventures together lately. They know each other well, it’s obvious. She can’t take her eyes off of him, even when he’s talking to someone walking by. She has a look of magic in those eyes, a look of adoration that has lasted a long time.

What makes love like that last? What makes a man now bent over and leaning on a cane still call his wife his bride, still open the door for her as they leave? What makes the words still flow even after years of conversation, or what makes them stay unspoken?

What I saw was simplicity, three instances of two people being together, being present. Whether they spoke or sat still, they were there together, no phones, no screens, no technology putting walls up between them. They knew each other well, knew when to give and share and when to wait and just enjoy sharing space together.

The sky outside the window next to me is dark and threatening, the rain is pelting hard against the glass, leaves whipping around, and I look at these couples, and I know they’ve weathered storms, too. I don’t know what their storms or stories are, but I can see in the lines on their faces and the light in their eyes and in the little ways they interact that they’ve gone through much on their journey to today, and it's beautiful.

It’s just Panera. It’s just a Thursday evening. But Panera on this Thursday was special to me. Three couples showed me love lasts and looks different every time, and that made my heart smile. Three couples showed me sharing a table and sharing a meal and sharing space is worth carving out time for, because I think it’s simple little things like that that keep love going strong and going long.

#TheBachelorWedding and Jesus on TV

Okay, yes, I'm a little bit obsessed with The Bachelor. Call it a guilty pleasure or whatever, it's just a good old train wreck of drama and romance that I love to watch. Last night, past Bachelor Sean and his fiancée Catherine got married with an elaborate and televised wedding ceremony, and yep, I loved it. Not the extravagance of the flowers or her gown or Chris Harrison's classic host commentary...I loved that they talked about Jesus.

They are celebrities with an insane amount of public attention and scrutiny, and everything they say or do (and even things they never said or did) are broadcast to the entire world. And they talked about Jesus. Boldly. Unashamedly.

Sean and Catherine waited until marriage to have sex and become one, and they talked about it a lot. Boldly. Unashamedly. They didn't skirt around it or try to hide it or make excuses for it. They made it known that it was part of their faith, that they were excited for their wedding night (as they should be!), and that they had been waiting to live together and truly be together until they were married. Mad props to them.

In the light of all the drama with other celebrities getting into trouble with the law and causing scandals and rebelling in all sorts of ways, it was so refreshing to see two people use their fame to make the name of God known.

Sean's father officiated their wedding, and it was all about their faith and their love. The name of Jesus was proclaimed, it wasn't hidden, and it was beautiful. Bold. Unashamed.

ABC didn't hide their conversations about how they waited to have sex, they didn't avoid broadcasting the name of Jesus, and they didn't show any of it negatively. Mad props to them, too. So often, Christianity is shown negatively on television, and last night had none of that. Every Christian girl I know was swooning and probably crying and mostly just loving everything about their wedding. It was just so good, people. Yeah, it was a TV wedding, yes it was the couple from that dramatic reality show, but it was the real deal.

It was a sweet, romantic, beautiful wedding. It was everything a wedding should be about: the couple's love, the Father's love, and unity both together and in Him as the new Mr. and Mrs. begin their new life together as a married couple seeking to bring glory to His name. It was just so good.

Sean and Catherine, thank you. For being bold, for being solid, for being real, and for being a light for Christ in the world through your fame. I give you props. You're using the fame God has given you to glorify Him and be real about it. And that rocks. ps...you're really cute together and I can't wait for you to have adorable little babies someday.

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