So, after the amazing summer full of Jesus conversations and second-guessing, the phone call meant: Peter actually DID like me, after all, and wanted to continue getting to know me. That was three days after my birthday, in August, and the day before I got my wisdom teeth out. A horrific affair, gotten through only by the comfort of wildly amazing books, an entire bottle of ibuprofen, and hearing his hilarious stories of his wisdom-teeth-removal experience
And then in September, Peter and Benjamin had a much more eventful lunch, when Peter told him he wanted this thing to be legit, which led to The Great Awkward Family Dinner of September 2012, and then, our for-real relationship, what you might call "intentional-friendship-with-possibility-of-getting-married-if-it-pans-out."
Real friends are the best thing, and that's what Peter was. We were honest with each other about sin, we spazzed about books we were reading and mind bombs we were having. We sat around lots of September fires and talked and talked and talked. We took voracious notes on "The Meaning of Marriage" by Tim Keller and discussed it from our moleskins. (read it! read it! read it! it's not just about marriage. applicable to friendships, any relationship… and like, being a human. pretty sure you qualify.)
I used to really want to get married (marriage is the goal! marriage is the answer!), and somehow, a bunch of things correlated to result in less "yay magical life-fulfilling marriage! love is beautiful! men are gods!" and more "holy cow, marriage is a big deal! it's scary! love is terrifying! men aren't to be trusted! neither am I!" Reading that book made me so excited to be married, but scared at the same time, because it talked about how marriage ISN'T about you, and it isn't about being a magical fairytale all the time. It's about sanctification, which is much better, but much harder. And involves two messed up sinners loving each other imperfectly. But also, the amazing grace of Jesus.
|it works, because I wear rainbow socks and he wears slippers in public.|
We talked a lot about how to make our relationship intentionally focused on Jesus instead of a obsessed-with-each-other mush-fest (which we knew it could easily become). The fact that he initiated these things, instead of just doing the bare minimum of what my parents required, was so good for me to see. It showed me that he knew how to lead, and that he thought about things himself, instead of just blindly following rules to get what he wanted.
We really wanted to have our relationship be an at least somewhat clear-headed friendship. Since we hadn't known each other (at least, for-real known each other) very long, we weren't going into it SURE we would get married, so while we were knew it was a possibility, we wanted to be careful to not get too wrapped up in that. Which for us, meant not getting physically involved, not making it all about our feeeeelings instead of Jesus, etc. We also didn't want to be all "us-against-the-world"--our brothers and sisters in Christ are huge blessing, and we wanted to take advantage of their wisdom, insight, and advice in our relationship. When people said "I don't think you should do that", we wanted to listen to them, instead of being so sure of ourselves and convinced that we were right, that we couldn't see past our own noses.
A gigantic post on romance/relationships/single-girl stuff that I had been personally convicted on, had been brewing for months (before I even knew Peter), but by the time I was getting around to actually posting it, I was knee-deep in this whole relationship and so busy I (clearly) never had time to blog.
Some of the random thoughts I had typed up in the document were:
- Jesus isn't an ingredient you can toss into your relationship to make it more wholesome. Jesus has to be the complete purpose, goal, foundation of the entire relationship.
- The man for you is not the one who will make you have a perfect life, but the one who will help you turn into who God wants you to be.
- One of the worst and most common things all we girls do is put guys where Jesus should be in our hearts and lives.
I'd learned that Jesus wasn't something you could add to a relationship, or try and fit Him around the rest. He had to be what it was ABOUT. And I was so, so blessed when Peter came along. We never would have even liked each other, we never would have connected like crazy from the very beginning, we wouldn't have had much to talk about, if it hadn't been for Jesus. He really was the reason for our relationship. He was the reason it started, and the reason it continued.
Peter was so deep, and honest, and real. And increasingly so. To be honest, there are a lot of people who seem awesome/say they are awesome, who turn out to be, well, not awesome. Or at least less awesome. This guy got better & better. And I respected his integrity, passion for Jesus, and understanding of grace & forgiveness more than any guy I'd ever known.
We had lots of phone calls and mailed notes and dinners with my family and long walks on gravel roads, where we talked about everything. He started a book study at his house on one of the books I'd read during my wisdom teeth fiasco (it's called "Real" and is amazing). We wrung most people we knew dry for advice on relationships, and had awesome conversations with all my siblings/siblings-in-law about their stories.
He went to Boston, and I missed him, and he brought me back the best gift: a box including pens & moleskins (win!), polka dot scarf (win!), chocolate (um, win!), and a rainbow whirly lollipop (THE WINNEST OF ALL). He didn't even know I was obsessed with them, but he saw it and it made him think of me, so he bought it. (Keeper.)
I want to New York & Pennsylvania, and we talked on the phone and I missed him and had to stay longer because of Hurricane Sandy. Which was glorious, other than missing him, because of the impossibly wonderful Jenna + her family, who we stayed with. We edited pictures and drank hot chocolate and made cookies and listened to records and sang Mumford & Sons songs while it rained and rained and rained.
We made (and ate) a lot of pizza, played cards, watched movies on the couch, did photo shoots, and played taboo. He came with us to get our family's tree (his first Christmas tree ever!) & photo-bombed my family's Christmas photo, he jumped out of my brother Benjamin's trunk to surprise me for an all-day Christmas shopping trip (I was so surprised + freaked out that I scared him too). Christmas with him was tremendously amazing, because he, too, is a Christmas Junkie. (Think, Elf. "SANTAAAA! I KNOW HIM!") He gave me an amazing photo book with pictures of us + significant things, combined with a bunch of our emails, quotes we loved, and my bucket list. He came with us to watch Les Miserables on Christmas Day (so bonding. we both loved it. he cried, I didn't).
We ushered in the new year with partying and eventually watching Star Wars (I'd never seen it before, which was a personal outrage to him that needed to be corrected ASAP). On New Years' Day, he wanted to fly a kite, which I was totally glass-half-empty about and thought would never work. I wore my rainbow socks and it worked beautifully and shouldn't one fly a kite on New Years Day after all?
He had a lot of crazy ideas I would be cynical about, but every time I decided, "sure! let's do it!" or "okay FINE", it turned out to be amazing. This guy is a risk taker. You know the whole "never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game" thing? (Cinderella Story, anyone?? ♥ ) That is my LIFE. I totally am scared of striking out, and therefore never play the game. Literally. (also I hate baseball. but anyway). One of my favorite things about him is that he ALWAYS plays the game, even if he knows he'll strike out, because he isn't debilitatingly self-conscious and prideful and ridiculous, like me. If the metaphor isn't working: basically, Peter does things. He doesn't take himself too seriously, he is unabashedly, and rather terrifyingly weird, isn't scared, and has no shame. All of these traits are kind of shocking in a person.
We hung out on fire escapes and did photo shoots in the snow, and looked at baby pictures of each other. We watched his old home videos, which included hilarious footage of him strutting around as a 2 year old, flexing his muscles and being the cutest thing in the whole world. Also: him winning the best costume award as a tiny kid at a church event, proudly exiting the stage--and then ME as an equally fat toddler walking up to him, apparently in awe of his celebrity status (even then). So maybe we DID communicate at some point.
We revamped his website together, laughed uncontrollably about courage pins and completely un-postable "about me" sections. Every time he walked with me down to the barn to feed my chickens, he would make me laugh so hard I had to sit down on the gravel driveway. We watched Babe (with my dad, of course), and Lion King (and freaked out to each other the whole time about the JESUS CORRELATIONS. seriously guys, if you haven't noticed the gospel/Satan/identity in Christ/God as our father themes in there before, watch it again. it will blow your mind.)
I panicked outrageously about his birthday, and we went downtown with Bethany and did fun things (I hope), most notably having a picnic in a park, watching youtube videos, and eating his funfetti cake-in-a-jar I had made for him.
I had the best Valentine's day/one-of-the-best-days-period of my life. I've never wished I "had someone" at Valentine's Day, because for our family, it was more about like, LOVE, not just romantic love. But I awkwardly was like "WOW THIS IS THE BEST" when I actually was in a relationship on the day.
We went out to coffee in the morning, he blew my mind with a succession of completely perfect gifts, we played cribbage (yes, we're like old people), we watched Die Hard 4 with Bethany (this was actually by my request, heh), and then my glorious mother made us a private, romantic dinner which was absolutely perfect.
We shot more weddings together, and he did a friend's wedding that I was a bridesmaid in (we still managed to do some tandem shooting + fraternizing + dancing). We had an amazing, sunshiny, candy-filled Easter together. We went on a roadtrip to Bend with our friend Sam, to visit Hadley & Kerilynn's family.
One of the reasons I've always been worried about getting married, is because I'm one of those annoying people who has kind of a short attention span, gets severely obsessed with things for awhile, and then gets tired/bored of them. I figured I would just get tired of the person, which would be awkward, because 50+ years of marriage to someone you're tired of doesn't seem fun. Well, I'm a horrible person, which is why I am this way. But for some reason, I never got tired of Peter. If I'd hung out with him all afternoon, it just made me want to hang out with him for the rest of the day. If I hung out with him all day, it just made me want to hang out with him forever. And it wasn't even because everything was perfect and warm fuzzies. I just really, really liked being with him.
We hung out, had deep conversations, and watched weird anime movies with my favoritest person, my Bethany. And abundantly importantly: they not only got along, but heartily approved of each other.
We collaborated on dinner parties, including one of my favorites-ever--with four other couples, who had all been married for 25-50 years, who had the best stories of God's abundant grace and mercy in their marriages. "There have been hard times, but it is so, so good", is what they all said. That night was one of the times I really, really wanted to marry him.
We fell in love with Volkswagen vans and ate birthday cake pudding (it exists), and looked at pinterest and dreamed big. And played even more cards (sometimes I threw things at his head).
We created a three-musketeers situation with my brother's firstborn--sturdy, weird-face-making, belly-laughing soul-sister.
We had picnics at my house, which were punctuated by the lovely Chucky's abusive behavior (my family's squishy black cat, who sinks his claws affectionately into everyone, and who took it upon himself to be our personal outdoor chaperone).
He camped with my brother, and he came and visited us during our family vacation at the beach, and did his doctory stuff with great glee on Benjamin's busted-open-with-a-knife-while-trying-to-open-a-wine-bottle finger. We had beach fires and deep, deep talks with Ben, who was a huge part of our relationship since the beginning. We explored weird, secret places on the beach and went into scary dark caves and took film pictures of each other.
my instagram was the one thing I actually kept updated. some of the pictures I took:
All of this was amazing. But my stupid, stupid self had issues: (many, but among them..) sheer terror of commitment/marriage/love.
Somehow "these are the best days of my life, I want to be with him all the time, he makes me crazy, laugh-uncontrollably-at-the-dinner-table happy, he's the best man I've ever known" and "holy cow, this is terrifying, I don't even know how I feel, I don't even know if I like him. WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME" coexisted in my ridiculous head.
There were several thinly disguised/undisguised panicky coffee dates & car rides with Benjamin, Bethany, my mom, and Melinda (my incredible, mama-of-eight friend), especially, that would go kind of like this. "I just don't KNOW! what if we're not right for each other? what if we'll kill each other? we're both youngests! how could THAT work? THIS IS ALL REALLY SCARY. also, I like him."
I had a conversation with my friend Juli (freshly engaged) not too long into our relationship, where I was telling her about everything, and worrying "maybe we're too alike!" Even though Peter was overflowing with character and integrity and discipline and diligence (aka completely different than me), we had almost identical beliefs/opinions, and our basic personalities seemed similar: excitable, weird, photographers, loud, hardcore laughers, etc.) Juli snorted (attractively) and said "hah, just wait. you'll find out lots of ways you're different."
And ever since then, I have realized that: WE ARE NOTHING ALIKE. We have tons of common interests (super handy), we believe the same things (so important), but our personalities are totally different in most ways. Take any man and any woman and you instantly have plenty of differences (men are so weird). We are, however, both babies of the family--youngests of six, with three brothers and two sisters each (freaky), and there are certain baby-of-the-family tendencies we both definitely have. All this is also complicated by the fact that, between the two of us, we probably have about fifteen different personalities.
But anyways. Quick tangent.
Remember Jenna, in Pennsylvania, during Hurricane Sandy? We stayed up for hours the first day we met and I told her about Peter and flailed about with my "I don't knooow! I really like him but I'm scared/lame/confused/conflicted and ALSO MARRIAGE IS A LONG TIME" and she gave me some of the best advice I'd ever gotten: love is a choice. being with someone isn't about everything being perfect. it isn't about completely "compatible" personalities. in a way, you choose someone you have a good shot with, and then choose day after day, to love them. The success of the relationship doesn't depend on you, anyway--it's the undeserved grace of Jesus.
Instead of being a totally head-over-heels, butterflies-all-day-everyday, completely attached, self-respecting FEMALE, I was like some lame guy from a movie, being scared of commitment--partially because marriage, while an incredible concept, since it was all about sanctification & superduper awesome friendship, includes choosing someone you really really love, and then choosing to inflict you and all your nasty, ugly sins on them for the rest of their life. But also, much worse, I was scared of commitment because I was scared of choosing the wrong person, of not being able to love him properly, of getting tired of him.
I never "just knew" like almost every beautiful girl and her beautiful love story. I kept waiting to KNOW (aka, not feel scared anymore), and it just didn't happen. Did this mean that we shouldn't be together??
At lunch one time, I was panicking to Benjamin ("I don't know if it will work!"), and he said "why?"
Me: "I don't know! I guess...because he's not perfect and I'm a mess... we're both sinners!"
Ben: "Well, there you go. That's what marriage is about. And everyone is a sinner."
Simultaneously with this kind of panic, was also the fear that he didn't really like me very much, that he'd decide he didn't want to be with me, that I liked him more than he liked me, that he'd never want to marry me.
One of the things we always wanted to do in a relationship, and were encouraged by my parents to do, was to stay away from promises and a bunch of lovey-dovey stuff too soon. Peter didn't say he was committed until he could put a ring on it, because he didn't want to be creating false security. Words are a big deal, people. And a lot of guys can really screw up a girl's life with them. Making promises you don't know if you can keep, aren't ready to keep, or never intend to keep in the first place is one of the dirtiest-dog things a guy can do to a girl. If you're not man enough to do what you say you're going to do, then just shut up. In my opinion. Ahem. Anyways.
I respect and appreciate him so much for this, although in the moment, it was tough, because it made it harder to feel safe (women are safety-junkies. we really are). I think this was so. good. for me though. Instead of trusting completely in Peter, or in my(very untrustworthy)self, this forced me to trust and rely on Jesus. I prayed every night--Jesus, this is yours. I'm trying. so. hard to keep from clenching my fists around this. Do what you want with this relationship BUT ALSO UM COULD YOU PLEASE SHOW ME WHAT I SHOULD DO."
I kept asking Him to make it clear to me (aka take all the risk out of the equation by coming down and stating: "Susannah, this is a good idea. Marry him. Additionally, he will never hurt you or leave you or sin against you, so it's okay to be all in." Guys, letting go and taking risks and going in blind and not having guarantees and not being a self-protecting disaster is HARD. It seems like most everyone else is so good at it. They "had peace", and "just knew" and "were sure the first moment they saw each other". AUGH.
Those are beautiful stories, but it's so important not to think that your story is going to be the same as someone else's. God clearly knew what he was doing when He wrote things the way He did. For me, if I'd "just known", which had always seemed like the truly romantic thing (childhood sweethearts! love at first sight!), I would have been trusting myself, instead of clinging, each step, to God, even though I was scared to death and doing a really shoddy job of trusting Him. I'm still realizing the marks of God's goodness and crazy-beautiful plan as I look back at this whole thing.
aaand to be continued. again.