Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Veritas: Alex and Heidi

{real life love}

It sounds like something out of a movie, but it can definitely be real: sometimes, it seems, the most perfect love for you is one that was already there.  Heidi shared her story with me and I loved reading how her friendship with her husband Alex turned into romance thanks to his courage and her "yes."  She blogs about family life, decorating, the books she reads (hello girl after my own heart), and her sweet baby boy, Callan, at Notes From Heidi.

Me and my husband, Alexander, first met when he transferred in during my freshman year of college. He immediately began volunteering with the same organization I volunteered with, and we met in the car on the way to a weekend retreat. He was wearing a pink tshirt that said "Give Blood. Play Rugby" and I remember having a good conversation with him, and how he went out into the median of the highway to look ahead when we ended up stuck in traffic for an hour...but that was all. For a first impression, it was pretty unmemorable. He soon got caught up with school work and stopped volunteering, and we only exchanged pleasantries and the occasional cafeteria table until senior year.

During my freshman and sophomore years I really wasn't looking for a romantic relationship. I had little crushes here and there, but really didn't have a strong direction towards or away from a relationship. Toward the end of sophomore year I began complaining about boys being dumb; seniors were getting engaged, friends were pairing up, and I was spending the first summer away from my family and feeling lonely. First semester junior year, bam! Two different young men asked me for an "intentional relationship" within a three week time span, but they weren't the ones I was interested in. (Alex never said a word.) 

I left to spend a semester abroad studying in Germany, and while I was there, I began a long distance courtship with a friend from home. This courtship lasted about halfway through the Fall of senior year, when I broke it off. I couldn't picture myself actually marrying the young man, and so didn't see how or why we should continue courting.

I had actually begun to get to know Alex better before I broke off the courtship, though romantical thoughts didn't enter my mind until the next semester. Me, my roommate, and her fiance got together multiple nights a week to read and discuss Scripture and Alexander frequently came. It struck both of us at the time (though we realized it later) that we communicated very, very well. The next few months were quite eventful...

...In February he asked me to a dance and we went as friends. He won a raffle for a free dinner at a professor's house in April and, in the excitement of the moment, asked me to go with him to that as well. I said, "Sure!"

...We were in the same Shakespeare class and over the course of the next few weeks we texted, IM'd, or met up to study every single day. Constant contact + easy communication + Shakespeare + my quick crushes = major crush on my part.

...He remained oblivious; I got frustrated and anxious. He realized that he might be leading me on and broke contact for a whole week. I was a mess, and though he might not have admitted it, he missed me. We were good friends, and you can't just stop talking with good friends.

...We went to the professor's house for dinner and it was resolved that night, between me and my room mate, that in order to spare my heart, someone needed to say something to Alex. He needed to establish where exactly our relationship was headed. About the same moment his roommate tracked him down to give him the "What the heck are you doing?" speech, Alex casually said, "You know, I think I should ask Heidi out." 

Thus began our dating and courtship. We knew one another as friends and clearly established that we were dating specifically with the purpose of figuring out whether or not we wanted to get married. The tough part? I moved to the South to teach and he lived in California. He eventually ended up in Pennsylvania; even so, with a 5 hour separation, the next six months were brutal. Long distance is's a good thing that it "forces you to talk," but who wants to talk on the phone all the time? Who wants to only see the person you're growing to love twice a month? Not us. But it did sharpen our communication skills, and in the end it was a very good thing that we spent a year learning to live on our own first. We learned what quirks would bother us if we got married.  We learned some of the signals in more difficult conversations of the other person getting upset. We learned a lot. And other than those important topics we had to discuss right away, our relationship progressed naturally. Things came up and we talked about them; no subject was forced, we didn't beat things to death, and no red flags were raised.  Nothing said "this is definitely not ever going to work."

In a sort of coincidence, Alex and my dad ended up visiting me one weekend at the beginning of December. I learned later that this was the weekend when Alex asked for my dad's permission and blessing to marry me! My dad gladly gave it; it was decided. The next weekend, Alex surprised me with an afternoon visit. While it was weird, I knew that it was the sort of thing he would do (something I love about him...he's not afraid to do silly things for the sake of being romantic). He helped me grade papers, then we went for a walk by the river before he had to drive back. We meandered off the trail to be closer to the water...he got down on one knee...and I said "Yes". He said, "Good" (NB from Stephanie: you can read Heidi's immediate reaction to Alex's surprise and another version of their engagement story here!).

One thing I love about being married is how little things like that end up becoming rituals that make a relationship special. To this day, when one of us says "I love you," after the response "I love you, too" the answer is always "Good". Because marriage, becoming united, committing to raising a family and spending a lifetime together?  It is good.

Long distance engagement was harder than long-distance dating.  Now that we had decided we were going to be together, it felt like the most unnatural thing to be separated.  In addition to that difficulty, we were now kissing.  Though we remained pure and stuck to pre-established boundaries, the more physical you get, the harder it gets to wait. 

Alex also had a hard time knowing how to help me plan the wedding; with no family in the area, I was planning the wedding myself and he was in charge of the honeymoon. With a tight budget and limited resources, I had my fair share of meltdowns on the phone. Lots of little things were forgotten until the last minute: we forgot to order rings til two weeks before, we couldn't afford a caterer until a friend volunteered to do the reception a month before, I waited a day too late to order flowers and bought them at Kroger the day before... The day turned out to be beautiful and dreamy, and the only thing I would change would be to put on the photographer's contract formal portrait of the bride and groom, because we didn't get one of those.

Alex surprised me (i.e., spilled the beans three days before the wedding) with a honeymoon in Ireland. 

The rest is history, I suppose. We just celebrated our two year wedding anniversary and have a happy, thriving eight month old son. Possibly the hardest struggle has been financial; Alex has been through multiple jobs trying to provide enough to just pay the basic bills, and even though I could keep working we've decided that it is best for our family if I stay home. It's hard to have the faith to see the end of the hardships, but God is faithful and reminds us of it daily. 

I frequently wake up relieved, having had a nightmare about ending up in a different marriage and a different life, and find Alex contentedly sleeping beside me. The Lord provided me with a romantic, strong, dependable, responsible, hilarious, caring, faith-filled and faithful, sweet man. And I am forever grateful.

I myself never really dated along formal lines of courtship, but I love reading stories where intention, purpose and a commitment to God's will play such a huge role.  Chime in!  Any courtship stories of your own?  And please, indulge and humor me: if you'd like to share your love story on Captive the Heart, email me at

Monday, July 29, 2013

Prayer Doesn't Change Things, It Changes Us: Thoughts on Our Second Anniversary

Natalie Franke Photography
I wrote on Friday about the many unexpected difficulties of moving to a new area as Andrew prepares to start his PhD next month.  Two years ago last week was our wedding day.  Though I can't say I ever anticipated moving, with the accompanying uncertainty of figuring out where to live, and losing a job opportunity while six months pregnant, I do have to say that external, material concerns notwithstanding, my soul has truly never been more at rest.

The time immediately following our wedding and honeymoon looked pretty similar to how things are right now: I was following Andrew to where he was going to school, we were settling into a new apartment, and I was looking for work (last month, I posted about transitioning to a new place after marriage; I think I'll need to take my own advice all over again)  It felt funny having a host of fancy new presents like a food processor, but not even any chairs for the kitchen table!  We ate dinner on the floor for a few weeks--I think it's a grace of the sacrament and our happiness at finally being married that we didn't mind!

Now, we have enough furniture to sit on and, thanks to my last job, enough money saved that we don't need to worry for a while about our financial situation (though it's tough, in my mind, to actually use our savings), yet it's still hard readjusting my expectations of what this next part of our lives would be like.  A blessing of having this time is that we got to spend the entire day of our anniversary together sleeping in, going to Mass and for a long walk, and just enjoying being around each other.  Last year we dressed up and treated ourselves to a fancy sushi dinner, but last week, our anniversary meal was just T-shirts and Baja Fresh burritos.  Simple and unconventional, maybe, but perfect for us right now.

That's the thing.  A friend told us the other day what a good situation it seems like the Lord has put us in.  Though certain worldly things are being taken away right now, we're being asked to follow Him deeper into trust, and we've been blessed with a wonderful community of family and friends in the area (we've happily moved back close to where we both grew up) and a little savings cushion.  You know what?  When I remember our first days in West Virginia a few years ago, I'm so thankful for not having the perfect life all set up just yet.

Sometimes it's hard, not in the sense of jealousy but just in the sense of knowing it will still be a while for us, seeing friends who have houses, two incomes, and a consistent hometown at or by the time they get married.  Not having all of that right away, though, has helped me appreciate how little we really need.  It isn't that I wouldn't enjoy some of those trappings of a comfy life, but I know now that when it's our turn we'll have such a feeling of gratitude.  For now, I feel so blessed by a loving husband and by the ease and joy I find in our relationship.  As many external things don't seem ideal on the surface, I love to consider the ways we've made each other more and more ourselves (I have come to believe, really strongly, that authentic, pure love doesn't change you so much as reveal the best parts of you that were there to begin with) and grown so much in our affection and admiration.

Blessed Teresa said, "I used to believe that prayer changes things, but now I know that prayer changes us, and we change things."  I've been praying so much lately to not just want things to come easily (though I certainly wouldn't complain), but to truly want the Lord to change my heart in a way that opens me up to what's best for our family.  Here's to two years of deep joy and hope for constantly more trusting hearts.

P.S.  BHLDN, Anthropologie's wedding line, is hosting a fantastic bridal shoe giveaway of your choice through noon today!  Like Captive the Heart on Facebook for details on how to enter!

P.P.S.  If you missed it last year, you can catch my post on our first anniversary here.

Friday, July 26, 2013

7 Quick Takes, Volume 24

{story of a soul, condensed}

Visit Jen at Conversion Diary for more Quick Takes!

{1} I'm so content to return to blogging after a three-week moving hiatus!  Settling into a new area has been much more of a Cross than I anticipated.  There were complications and delays with the lease on our apartment and the arrival of our moving pod that meant staying with family for a more extended period than we'd originally thought, and it's felt like Satan's been all over the simplest tasks, like laundry, navigating a new town, and getting together a few documents that Andrew needs for school.  But, living much closer to family and friends has been a huge blessing and consolation.

{2} My heart has been heavy for the past week.  In addition to the other stresses of moving and settling, I'd accepted a job a few weeks ago that would've been an ideal setup for our family, but just learned that it can't happen right now.  It's been difficult, honestly, to see where the Lord is leading us.  Starting from scratch and applying for work at seven months pregnant is intimidating, and for now, I am looking for nannying and tutoring opportunities.  Please pray for discernment for me, that I might find peace and clarity in whatever new decision is best for us and our little guy on the way, and for speedy employment.

{3} On a happier note, though, Andrew and I celebrated our second anniversary on Tuesday!  One gift of me not working right now and him not starting school for a few more weeks is that we got to spend the entire day together.  We slept late, went to Adoration and Mass, and just spent the afternoon relaxing.  We treated ourselves to giant burritos from one of our favorite places for dinner--not the fanciest, most romantic anniversary meal, maybe, but a simple, delish choice for our current income (which is none until Andrew's semester begins), and they definitely hit the spot for this pregnant girl!  i feel so blessed by my husband and by the ease of our relationship even during harder times like these.  Thanks be to God, all of our difficulties are outside of us, and things between us still feel so wonderfully loving and strong.

{4} And now, if I may steal the spotlight from the royal baby for a minute, some pregnancy updates!  Our baby, at 27 weeks, is just over two pounds, and according to my books, is starting to recognize voices!  Even before now, we've been talking to him constantly, just so excited to meet him, and now it feels even more exciting that he's learning how we sound!  One of my favorite things lately has been watching my belly move around from our baby's little rolls and swims when I sit down and recline.  He moves like a champ.

{5} Our new apartment has the most beautiful light--we took these bump photos a few days ago!

{6} Another blessing of having some open time for a while has been working on a registry for our baby! We live in a pretty cozy (a.k.a. tiny) space right now, so I want to make sure we get only what we need and to try finding items that can multitask, like a Pack and Play that can also function as a bed for a while.  And so, mamas: your advice, please!  What are the most helpful items to register for?  What didn't you anticipate needing that you wished you'd picked out or received?  What don't we need (I imagine there's a lot of this)?  And if anyone can put my mind at ease, is it still possible to cloth diaper when you share a laundry facility?

{7} I got our first parenting book, on a lot of other moms' advice, from a consignment store last weekend.  My friend Beth is expecting her first sweet baby boy, too, and we went shopping!  I tried not to go too crazy on all of the cute clothes and toys, but I've heard nothing but good things about Dr. Karp's The Happiest Baby On the Block, which is all about soothing newborns by imitating their life in the womb. I don't think I'll be too big on books about actual parenting methods, as opposed to just caring for your baby like this book describes, but if you have any other recommendations I'm all ears!

Looking forward to finally writing more consistently again!  Visit again on Monday for more thoughts on our anniversary, and have a wonderful weekend!

Friday, July 5, 2013

You're A Firework

Happy 4th of July weekend!  Things will be pretty quiet around here for the next week or so as we head to the beach and settle into our new apartment.  Please pray that our transition, which has had a good share of trials so far, goes smoothly!  Keep up here on Facebook.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

My Spirit Rejoices: Sweet Pea

{sweet sounds for your Mass and reception}

Photo Source
When I was a little girl, we lived on a busy main road near a fire department.  Sirens wailing by were pretty constant, and I can remember my bedtime consisting of always asking my dad, "Am I going to hear a fire engine tonight?"  "I don't think so," he'd say.  They drove by anyway, of course, but I loved the ritual.  Then, he'd sing me "The Tigger Song" from Winnie the Pooh and tuck me in.

For years, The Tigger Song was the only song I shared with my dad.  I love it, but at under a minute long, it wasn't a great contender for our Father-Daughter  dance at my wedding.  We started wracking our brains, and I came upon the sweetest song by way of Real Simple magazine.  Amos Lee's Sweet Pea expresses thanks for the most fond, comfortable kind of love.  "You're the only reason," he sings, "I keep on coming home."

My dad and I ended up dancing to another song, but that doesn't change my opinion that this wonderfully affectionate waltz would be a perfect dad-and-daughter choice.  You can listen to it here.

What do you think?  If there's a story behind your Father-Daughter choice, I'd love to hear it!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Guest Post From Stephanie, Part 1: Selecting Bridesmaids

Maybe it was my excitement to get married, coupled with, admittedly, what might have been premature planning on my part, but choosing Andrew's and my sisters, two of my cousins, and my best friend to stand next to me as bridesmaids was an easy choice. The thing was, there were tons of considerations after making that initial choice--none bad really, but definitely a few I didn't anticipate. Stephanie from I Found Him Whom My Soul Loves gets it. She was sweet enough to share her advice on choosing your wedding party. With no less than nine bridesmaids, I'd say she's more than qualified, wouldn't you?

Be sure to visit Steph's blog for her wonderful musings on married life in Ann Arbor with her sweetheart Michael (you can read their long-distance love story here) and preparations for their first baby boy!

When it comes to wedding planning, there are a few "big" decisions everyone makes before you get to go crazy with the smaller details. In my experience the man, the church, the date, reception venue, and the dress are all pretty important, big decisions...but there is another still that will greatly impact your wedding day experiences - and that is the wedding party.

Unless you've decided on a destination wedding and/or a very small guest list, the wedding party is typically something a bride and groom will spend a decent amount of time making a decision about. So how do you make such a big decision? Like anything else, you start with one thing at a time. Here are a few guidelines and tips I've prepared based on my own experiences having nine - yes, nine! - bridesmaids (and the 20/20 hindsight I acquired after the fact) in hopes that it may help some future brides out there.

Steph and her bridesmaids! Brian Powell Photography

Big or Small?

For some brides the answer to this question is simple. Depending on personality and your friendship situation, you may know right off the bat whether you want to keep the number of bridesmaids low or if you are going to be standing alongside 12 or 15 of your closest girls. But what about the rest of us? What if your numbers and the groom's numbers could go either way? Where do you draw the cutoff line?

Things to consider:

Budget - Sure, you don't have to worry about purchasing their dresses or shoes (thankfully that's one expense that is up to someone else to take care of!), but you do need to think about gifts for your wedding party (and don't forget about the groomsmen). Initially I wanted to pay for all of my girls to have their hair done and give them jewelry at the rehearsal dinner that they could wear with their bridesmaid dresses (in order to help them save a little money). With 9 ladies, however, this wound up being over our goal spending budget for the entire wedding party which would have left the gentlemen with...nothing. In the end I had to opt for a different game plan and could only afford to pay for my family members in the party to get their hair done. At the rehearsal dinner I gave all the bridesmaids a pair of earrings and a personalized/embroidered tote bag in one of our wedding colors so they could keep track of all their things the next day. I was pleased with what I was able to give but found a part of me wishing I could have done more for them - which would only have been possible with a smaller number of bridesmaids (because my budget wasn't going to magically grow larger).

Venue - This is one I didn't consider too much before choosing 9 bridesmaids. We wanted to have a head table with all the bridesmaids and groomsmen on either of our sides but in some venues a large party could severely limit your options. Consider the layout of the reception hall and whether or not the owners are flexible with their table plans (some places have pre-selected layouts you can choose from and won't be able to accommodate any curve-balls you through their way). Our venue didn't offer head table decorations but recommended a local vendor who supplied and set up whatever backdrops, linens, or decor you wanted surrounding your head table and cake table. This meant the size of our wedding party (combined with how our venue functioned) also impacted our decorations budget because we obviously paid more in head table decorations due to our large party.

Organization and Communication - Even the most organized, Type A bride can find herself a little overwhelmed as the big day approaches and unexpected situations may arise. When choosing your number of bridesmaids it may be helpful to consider your own personality as well as your friends' personalities. Can you easily and successfully communicate plans or delegate tasks to a large group of people who may or may not know one another? On top of that, do you have friends who can take direction and follow an itinerary easily or do they need a lot of hand-holding? The larger the party you have, the less time you'll be able to dedicate to relaying plans on an individual level. With a wedding party of 18 men and women we were unable to individually call or update people with every detail which meant we defaulted to email instructions of what people needed and where to be and when. This worked for most people, but we unfortunately had one bridesmaid who didn't understand our seemingly more distant, efficient approach and became offended and started to resent me for it. This could have easily been resolved quickly had I known, but a larger party usually opens up the door to more potential miscommunications which is something I didn't consider when selecting my bridesmaids and would recommend a bride be aware of.

Transportation - Are you planning to rent a limo (or two) for your wedding party? A trolley? Be aware of how much you're willing to spend on such transportation and what this means for your wedding party size. My husband and I didn't budget to pay for 2 limos which is what we would have needed for our 18-person party...but it was more important for us to have more friends in the party than to have a limo. We made do without one but depending on your wedding and reception locations it may seem more crucial for some couples to provide some sort of transportation. Figure out what your priorities are and plan accordingly.

Check back next week for more advice from Steph on how to balance family and friends as your wedding party selections are underway!

What about you? Any tips you'd add? Share your best ideas with us in the comments!


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