What leads up to marriage…
It’s basically the first domino in the line of dominos that have fallen into place over the past 4 ½ years (there are definitely dominos that fell before it to get me to our marriage but for now this is the domino we will focus on).
Matt and I started dating our senior year of college. To be more specific, we started dating the January of the last semester of our senior year in college (technically he stayed one extra semester but for all logistical purposes, it was our last semester).
He was it. I had a boyfriend for 3 years prior to him, was single (well, “dated” a few different people) for a year, and then he was it. I knew it when we started dating. I had always prayed for the “right” guy but I wasn’t really sure what that looked like. I had some ideas but when I started dating Matt I knew what my “right” guy required. All of him. Everything he encompassed as a person. His tender heart, his ability to draw people in (even though he is never the loudest one in the room), his patience (because Lord knows I needed someone with patience, and not just normal patience, but patience from The Bible, patience), his looks (obviously. I never knew I had a “type” until I found him and that was my “type”), his faith (there were Sundays in college where I was just not feeling it but his drive to go caused me to get out of that bed), and just this feeling that I was home with him. I never wanted anyone else like I wanted him.
And I think God knew that. I know he knew that. I wasn’t ever one to say I wanted to marry my best friend or my soul mate; but he was both. He dealt with my crazy and has continued dealing with it every day since January 16, 2009.
When we started dating we talked about serious stuff pretty quickly because I had approximately 4 months until I would no longer live in Stillwater; so I needed to know where we stood on life and what that looked like together. Somewhere in those 4 months we discussed family and what that looked like to us. I was one of 4 children; he was one of 2. We discussed how we wanted to be parents but how we became parents would be up to God. We knew we could be good parents and we would just let Him lead us down that path. We discussed fostering, adopting, and biological children. It was all on the table (and yes, another post for another day).
We dated through my move to Texas after graduating (my parents lived there and with no exact direction for life after graduation…on to my parents I went), my move back to Tulsa a few months later (because my parents were still my roommates so where they went, I went), my parents’ divorce (and yes, another move for me), and then my move to Oklahoma City to be closer to him.
See the thing is, even at that point, when I knew he was my person and I would marry him, I didn’t want to move because of him. If I got a job in OKC then I would move. And I did (and gosh it was the best job; I mean God really outdid himself on that one). That move and that job are such a defining part of my life story.
We dated for a few more years (4 ½ to be exact) then we got engaged at Busch Stadium (because Matt has been a Cardinals fan his whole life, I became a Cardinals fan, and we went to a game every year) with 2 of our very best friends. I had envisioned my engagement for years but this just went beyond any and all dreams I had of it. It wasn’t extravagant; it was perfect. We got engaged on the corner of 8th and Clark outside of the stadium after eating BBQ and…just all of the emotions (our dear friends captured it on video and in pictures and I could not be more thankful for that).
We didn’t have a lot of money (and by didn’t have a lot I mean…not a lot at all). I didn’t make much and he was in physical therapy school but we were going to have the best wedding. And we did. We got married at Crossings Community Church in Oklahoma City with the best bridal party. I mean, the best. I could write an entire separate blog post about the day before and the day of my wedding. It was that good. Our reception was at the Harn Homestead by the capitol building in Oklahoma City. It was an outside reception in May and it was the MOST BEAUTIFUL weather, ever. I literally felt like God looked down that day and said “here you go Hollie, enjoy your day”.
To really understand what this point in life meant to me, you have to know what marriage meant to me (we are about to get REALLY real here so…). I grew up Pentecostal holiness. I was taught that you do not have sex and you do not live together before marriage. You just don’t. It wasn’t an option. We didn’t talk about it; it wasn’t a discussion; you just didn’t do it. I took that and embedded it deep into my heart. Sex was for marriage. Period. As I got older that “do not do it because it’s against the rules” changed into so much more for me. I took Proverbs 4:23 literally. I wanted to guard my heart because everything flows from it. I wanted that for one person and one person only, for the rest of my life. In all honesty, I never even considered sex an option until I started dating Matt. Basically, beyond the initial “I’m going to marry that guy” feeling, THIS feeling sealed the deal. For 4 ½ years I knew I wanted him to be the only one and even that feeling didn’t change my long held moral code that it was for marriage only (this was just one thing I wanted for myself. The one thing I couldn’t take back and change if I regretted it. I wanted zero regrets on this). So we waited. We waited. The significance of waiting at this period in life is important. We learned to wait. That something great was worth waiting for (so if there is something you are waiting for, if this is a waiting period in your life, whether by choice or by circumstance, He’s in the waiting). Seriously. The best things are worth waiting for.
We also did not move in together until after our wedding day. I lived in our apartment for 3 months by myself. He would spend the night occasionally but for the most part, we wanted that part of our lives to be special. You only get to do things once in life and we both realized that by rushing things it took some of the “special” away. We knew once we moved in together it would be forever and we wanted that to be after marriage. Marriage first.
I think that has been our foundation. Without putting our marriage first, we couldn’t do the things we do today. Our marriage leads our family.
Life in the gray. It’s not always black and white, but in this case it was for us. These were choices that worked for us; they don’t work for everyone. That’s also an important point. What works for us or what we choose to do might be different than others, even our friends, but that doesn’t make what we do “right” and what others do “wrong”. One of the most significant things I’ve ever been told is when one of my dear friends said “I know you do not agree with my lifestyle, but you don’t judge me and you’re still my friend”. Yes, yes I am. I believe what I believe but I still love people who believe differently.
We established what we wanted and what we believed; and we haven’t looked back. To understand our next steps in life you needed a glimpse into us. The Grays.
XOXO – Hollie