How does one begin writing a love story? I think the first step is to recognize that ultimately God is the one who writes out each couples’ story, from beginning to finish. I’ve always known that, but it’s so much more real and amazing being on the other side, looking back, and seeing how His providence and perfect plans have now come to fruition. Good and precious things are worth waiting for… and there are few things more precious than the love shared between a man and a woman.
What’s so entertaining about Ashton’s and my story is probably more due to my thought process and how quickly (at least, it seemed…) the process of our courtship went. Last year I moved with my family to a new home and lived in a foreign country for three months… it was a busy, crazy year full of change, excitement and growth. I’ve always known that I wanted to travel overseas at least once before getting married and starting a family. Switzerland was amazing, I had such a wonderful overseas experience, so… now what?
December 2012 found me praying over the new year and making goals… which actually means writing up a list of things that I have little control over, but would really “like” if the Lord would cause to happen. My parents were also specifically praying for 2013 that we older kids would start moving in the direction of marriage, and so I ended up adding “start courting?” to my list of “things to do in 2013″, little knowing whether or not the Lord would bring someone around, or if I would be given another year to grow as a single. No one knows the future, but I just had a feeling that He would do big things this year. Besides, what could possibly top Switzerland?
Lo and behold, January came and I was already struggling and confused. Really wanting to plan a missions trip to Africa, I was searching for opportunities but still feeling that something wasn’t right. Should I give up a trip and leave the whole year opened for this significant other, who’s appearance I and my family were specifically praying for?
It was only two weeks into this agony that Ashton Bandy burst upon the scene of my life. I had met Ashton through our denomination when we stayed with mutual friends in California back in 2011. I had also interacted with his family once or twice a year since then, and I always thought of him as somewhat quiet and introverted… while at the same time being more impressed with his maturity, which I didn’t see in a lot of my male peers.
I was still sorting through some various emotions and confusion when, in mid-January, Dad told me that Ashton and his Dad had expressed an interest in courtship between us two. Whoa. What? Ashton Bandy the quiet guy? I felt like this was totally out of the blue. I had just stayed with his family in October. We hadn’t spoken much… he didn’t necessarily show any particular interest. Why had he singled me out? Did he really know me? Before I was confused. Now I was really confused!
I was ready to say no. I remember thinking “I don’t think this is going to work”. Dad assured me that after sharing a concern that Ashton was more introverted, that the Bandys had set him straight on that account (come on, he’s a firstborn!). But I needed to find out for myself. I wasn’t sure how I was going to get to know Ashton to be able to say yes or no… all I knew was that courtship, to me, was a pretty serious thing. I didn’t want to jump into it to get to know him. I know many people use courtship as the “get to know you” stage, but for whatever reason the Lord really impressed upon me the seriousness of such a step, and how very carefully I needed to pray over it before saying yes to a marriage-focused relationship. I also didn’t want to lead Ashton on in any way… I found myself praying often that the Lord would clearly show me if Ashton was not the one, and minimize any pain or hurt. There are always risks in relationships, but I didn’t want to do anything flippantly.
My father and I also had a lot to learn about courtship; or, more importantly, what we believed courtship needed to look like for us. But for me being 22, and with Ashton being 24, we took a less regimented approach. Dad understood my need to get to know Ashton on a more casual level before moving into a relationship of sorts, and I also needed some time to “figure things out” without the watchful eyes of those around us evaluating “how we did things”. So Ashton and I spent two weeks emailing, asking questions about hobbies, vision for the future, weaknesses and strengths… it took the pressure off of me in that I didn’t feel I had committed to something serious before figuring out if I even “liked” Ashton in that way. Being long-distance, I needed that time to get to know him on a friendship level.
I think “awkward” would accurately describe the first weekend Ashton came out to our place. As soon as he arrived my face turned a *cough* pinkish hue, and I think it might have stayed that way the rest of the weekend… My original impression of Ashton, I quickly found out, was entirely wrong. His manner of speaking would give the impression that he is more introverted, but the more time I spent with him I realized how visionary and outgoing he really is. Interestingly enough, the one thing I was looking for from his visit was his approach towards me and this potential relationship. Would he take it seriously? Was he really interested in ME? Was he just going to sit back and expect things to happen, or would he take the initiative?
Well, Ashton went so far above and beyond… between the flowers and chocolates and wine and compliments and conversations and…! Wow. This guy was not beating around the bush! And while it was still a lot to process all at once, after two weeks of emailing and a weekend together in person, there really wasn’t anything I could point to and say “this wouldn’t work between us”. Everything seemed to line up, and in March we began our “official” courtship. I was still the one needing more time to “grow” into the relationship, whereas Ashton was farther ahead in the process. But really, isn’t that what we ladies want? A guy who will really pursue us, who demonstrates the ability to lead?
Our get-to-know-you stage and courtship lasted for 3 months and was not without it’s ups and downs. I had really only observed those “easy” courtships (at least, what I saw seemed easy!) where the couples knew each other really well and had short and sweet courtships. However, everyone has to figure out what works for them in their unique situation; for Ashton and I doing this long-distance, we needed more time to make sure that we knew enough about background, character, convictions, etc.
We had one somewhat difficult period later in the courtship where we realized we had overlooked a key issue that needed to be discussed. We were both pretty well invested in each other and ready for the “next stage” at that point, which made it harder to consider the possibility that we would come out of the issue with two different convictions. However, while we definitely wouldn’t encourage other couples to delay discussing key issues (seriously, lists may help!), looking back we can see how this worked to strengthen our relationship, our trust in the Lord and ultimately in His perfect plan for our relationship, and it also gave us a chance to watch the other person work through a difficult and somewhat emotional issue.
Once we had come through some difficult discussions and a time of seeking the Lord- and ultimately coming to the same conviction- things really started to pick up. There were few things we felt we needed to work through. I had come from “I don’t know this guy… I think I’m going to say “no”" to “I can’t believe this wonderful guy is pursuing me!”. Two weeks before Ashton proposed, when we said goodbye after his weekend stay in Omaha and he pulled away… I surprised myself and started sobbing. I have never missed someone so much before, and as I tried to collect myself, I knew I never wanted to say goodbye to Ashton Bandy again.
A post that I wrote 6 years ago at age 16…
I’m now finally able to love on my guy, and it is so worth the wait.
God is good.
I get so much satisfaction out of working on new projects; especially the kind that last for a while. Cooking and dishes and cleaning and laundry are always ongoing; but some things, if done well, can provide enjoyment for years.
My amazing fiance and I are making baby steps towards planning for our little home; an apartment just for the two of us. It will be cozy but so very special… and this girl is just a little bit (okay, more than just a little bit) excited about setting up a home and making the space our very own.
My parents are giving us a table and chairs that belonged to my great Grandmother. They really are the best of both worlds; inheriting something vintage and sturdy (yet not too worn or damaged), while being able to polish it up and add something new- our own flavor- to it. The chair covers were a particularly ugly satiny green design, so of course that had to go. I searched on pinterest to gain inspiration and encouragement, and set to recovering the seat. I pulled out all the nasty little nails, removed two layers of covers, and found that the padding underneath was in good enough condition to keep. Then I cut out my very trendy chevron material, stretched it over the wooden seat, and stapled it into place. I also did the same with a thin plastic covering, to make it last longer and withstand any future little people. Hey, we like to plan ahead…
One down, 5 more to go!
2013 has been a crazy year already… crazy good. When looking at all that has happened in the past 2 months alone, my family and I are tempted to feel kind of overwhelmed. But yet, we pray for blessings, we pray for God to do big things… so why do we feel so taken off guard when God grants them? Somehow we just didn’t expect our prayers to be answered so speedily… a sad reflection on our expectancy of God, Who can go so far above all we ask or even think.
I am now officially entering the period of “mild insanity” regarding my recital. A lot of time is taken with facility rental, choreography, detail planning, etc. About a month out I’ll be in the official insanity period; getting pictures done, extra rehearsal times scheduled, and trying my hardest to polish up dances that inevitably run into kinks here and there. But I have to remind myself that every year I’m tempted to think that the dances won’t make it on stage as they should, and every year the performance happens and is glorifying to God.
I’ve had a lot of emotions to process and things to think through… with the recital and other things… but the resulting truth- whether I come to it right away or take some time to slog through my fears- is that God is in control and has the best in store for this weak daughter; yes, even for this sinful child. He is ever so faithful to listen and take my burdens upon His shoulders. They feel so big to me, and sadly tend to fill up my near-sighted vision, until I realize the obvious (silly Jennifer!) and am forced to lay them at His feet. In my weakness He is revealed as oh, so strong.
I am also learning, as I look back on how God has answered prayers so faithfully, that I need to ask of Him bigger things… and trust that He will fulfill them as I give up control that wasn’t even mine to begin with. He has never given me reason to doubt that He will give only good things; so why should I limit myself in prayer and faith? And, in my quest to come more boldly before the throne of grace, may my expectations, hopes and dreams be so aligned with His will that any disappointment would be replaced with ultimate joy in His perfect plan.
He is so good to me, undeserving daughter that I am. All praise to the King of Kings… and all praise for 2013, a year in which one thing is very certain; He will be glorified and His kingdom advanced!
“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” – 2nd Corinthians 12:9
I love traveling, ever so much! My first experience flying overseas may not have been the best ever, but a sleepless night in the terminal, flight delays, a most uncomfortable night in the plane and a missed flight in Amsterdam was not enough to kill my love for travel. Flying is awesome and so is the chance to explore new places and experience different cultures.
So my trip to Alabama last month for a very dear friend’s wedding made this girl pretty happy. Warm weather, hanging out with girlfriends, much-needed getaway time… oh, and flying. Some people, like my poor girlfriend, absolutely hate flying. But the impending snow storm on my return flight through Chicago didn’t concern me. “Adventure’s out there”, right?
I like to sit next to interesting people on flights. There are people who plunk down into that reeeeally small seat with only an inch of separation between you, plug into their music, and pretend you don’t exist. There are those businessman who fall asleep almost instantly, when I want to point out the window like a little girl and squeak “isn’t this exciting?”. And then there are the people who talk and talk and talk.
What’s so fun about talking to people on planes is that, most likely, you will never see them again and therefore have license to say whatever you want. Oh boy! A captive audience with no way of escape and a whole two hours of honest discussion. It’s quite the opportunity.
On my return flight I sat next to a quiet, tall redneck from Alabaaama who spent most of the flight studying his short novel and trying to come to terms with the fact that the seats did not give the two of us adequate room to keep our feet, elbows and luggage from encroaching on each others personal space. After an hour of us ignoring the other person’s existence, the captain announced that our landing in Chicago Midway would be delayed as we circled overhead, waiting for the icy runways to become safer. This gave everyone a chance to grumble sufficiently and acknowledge the person next to them as we all became united in the agony of spending more time than anticipated in our ever-shrinking, business-class seats.
Mr. Redneck seemed to find this delay and the increasing bursts of turbulence somewhat troubling, so I seized the chance to start a conversation and ask him about his novel. This led to sharing what we do and where we’re from, and somehow we got on the topic of him finding a Church community in his area. At 24 he wasn’t sure where he was heading in life, and with a mixed background I was pretty sure he had no idea what he really needed to “find” at Church.
Now, in the past I would have felt pretty intimidated or unsure of sharing the gospel. My fear is that people who consider themselves Christians and put up a confident front will be insulted when I try to share something they claim to already know. However, my time at the Crisis Pregnancy Center has taught me how to share in a real, relaxed way that doesn’t have to be dramatic or offensive, but instead honest and unpretentious. Not only do many girls who claim to have already heard the gospel message discover that they’re missing a very key aspect (total depravity), but often they will listen openly and admit that they’ve never really heard it “that way” before.
So here I find myself sitting next to a young man who doesn’t know what he wants in life, all but clutching to his seat as we shake and bump our way down to the airport in dark, rainy Chicago, encouraging him to get in the Word and seek the Lord. (Who knew turbulence could help get the gospel message across?) Upon landing everyone cheers, he starts to breath again, we give each other a high five, and then exit the plane only to melt into the crowd as we go our separate ways and get on with life.
Fear of offending man is too small of an issue to hold me back from being real with those around me. Fear of God ought to be so forefront in my mind that I can seize an opportunity to plant seeds, regardless of how stupid I may feel or how intimidating the situation. At the Crisis Pregnancy Center I am slowing learning how to let the drama, emotions, or fear of outcome to be pushed to the back burner, and learn to share the truth in a real world with a very desperate need to be saved. This is the kind of attitude I want to have everywhere I go…
I am so thankful for a heavenly Father who does not leave me stagnant, but challenges me to be every growing and learning. Oh, and I’m thankful for plane rides, too.
In this past year I:
- Was a bridesmaid for the very first time
- Spoke to a few of our State Senators at a luncheon (why does public speaking seem to happen every year? Gah!)
- Was incredibly blessed by another God-honoring performance with my 50 students
- Took swing dance lessons with my brother
- Watched my very dear friend and “twin” fall in love!
- Cried tears of joy when said girlfriend called me oceans away to tell me that she was engaged…
- Found out that I was officially going to Burtigny, Switzerland for three months and was both nervous and excited at the same time
- Learned that relationships change, no one is perfect, and that I need learn to deal with it
- Moved away from my childhood home in the country
- Almost died of exhaustion when I moved away from my childhood home in the country
- Learned how to make caramel sauce. True story
- Spent the night in a terminal (it’s as bad as it sounds)
- Arrived in Switzerland and officially fell in love with it
- Took a tour of my first castle ever. Heaven!
- Discovered that YWAM life is pretty interesting… and that I’m a people-person
- Ate real fondue
- Turned 22. And discovered that I still look as young as ever
- Took a hike in the Swiss alps
- Discovered that Swiss chocolate is as good as everyone says it is… no; better!
- Stood in the very spot where John Calvin used to preach
- Had my English Country dance calling interpreted
- Heard “holy laughter” for the first time ever
- Shot several handguns, an assault rifle, and an 1860 Henry Rifle; all in one day
- Went to Paris!
- Saw the Eiffel Tower!
- Visited the Louvre!
- Made a lot of really awesome friends
- Found out that cows with bells roaming the gorgeous hills in Switzerland really *are* charming
- Went to Italy!
- Ate gelato in Italy!
- Bought some silk in Italy!
- Left Switzerland. And cried.
- Started taking adult ballet classes as a way to challenge (and humble) myself
- Led another campaign volunteer project, froze in the cold, and celebrated another victory!
- Learned, in new ways, more about God’s faithfulness and goodness to me as His child
What a year! I can’t wait to see what He has in store for 2013…
It’s so weird to think that 7 months ago we were moving out of my childhood home and into a new one. My memory of that chaotic time is rather a blur… and my adjustment period was different since I almost immediately left for Switzerland afterward.
But, among other “milestones”, this was our first morning to wake up to see our new home and 2 acres covered with a blanket of sparkling snow.
I really do miss our 5 quieter, more isolated, more wooded acres back in Oakland. But praise the Lord that his beauty is everywhere, and even with new places and adjustments, the sparkling white, the crisp air, the sun gliding across waves of snow will always be the same, yet new…
First winter in our new home.
It’s really all about perspective, isn’t it? God is so good and I’m very thankful for where He has taken our family in 2012.
I can’t believe I’ve already been home from Switzerland for over two months. It seems like every week holds a rather large project that sucks away my time. The past week has been especially busy, as it’s been my tradition to devote 36 hours of my life to leading a volunteer team for a local election. Well, okay, maybe a bit more time counting the emails and calls I made begging the general populace to help a noble cause. But I would hate to exaggerate.
Our candidate this year was Bill Kintner for State Legislature. As a member of the “Nebraska Home Educators PAC” board, I took on the role of volunteer coordinator as I’ve been alongside my sister since 2008. The mission? To help a home-school friendly candidate get into office. We were successful in our two previous projects-Senators Beau McCoy (2008) and Jim Smith (2010), and I was fairly confident we would be able to smash out another district for Bill Kintner.
Well, throughout the three days of campaigning I also found out that I’m kind of naive, in more ways than one (surprise?). District 2 is so spread out; small towns, rural areas, everything 30+ minutes apart. The reality of keeping a handle on volunteers so spread out was more difficult than I anticipated. Plus, this year our election week was windy and a bit cold, especially at 7pm in the dark. Also, because the district was so spread out and groups were more disconnected, the energy level and “fun” factor was a lot lower than what we’re used to. Basically, I think I was spoiled by the condensed neighborhoods and more populated areas in Omaha. I guess it was time for a challenge anyway.
The Kintner vs. Lambert race was very tight. However, our candidate worked very hard in the months leading up to Nov. 6th, meeting constituents and citizens throughout his very large district. But knowing that the race was so tight also made our smaller team work quite a bit harder; spending a long 12 hour Tuesday waving signs in the gusty wind. *Shiver*. I knew I was in trouble when I started talking to myself as I stood in Plattsmouth watching amused voters zoom by… I’d like to think that those smiles meant “wow, she’s really convinced this guy is worth it” instead of “wow, what a loser; standing out in the cold like that looking like Rudolph with her red nose”. Either way it doesn’t really matter, because…
We WON! Praise the Lord! Our third candidate to make it into office. Bill Kintner won with 50.74% and 220 votes. Whew. It’s not really fun to sweat over numbers like that, but it is a wonderful confirmation that every little bit of volunteer work (yes, even with numb toes and fingers) makes a difference. In the end, God is in control and we are so thankful that it was His will to give Bill Kintner the title of Senator.
Here are some things I learned while volunteering on the Kintner campaign:
- Lunch break is a life-saver.
- Honks, thumbs-up, and smiles from drivers are huge morale boosters.
- Small town communities are kind of stuffy, and definitely picky when it comes to the distance of sign-wavers from the polling station.
- Coffee makes it all better.
- McDonald’s is not my favorite place.
- Friends who go out and sign wave in the dark and cold because I asked them to are awesome.
- If you shiver, jump up and down to keep the circulation going, and figure out how to look miserable yet smiley at the same time, voters will be more sympathetic. Technically this wasn’t too hard to achieve…
- It’s important to take a few moments throughout the day to make things interesting for volunteers who are losing motivation. Like the time we climbed up some mysterious steps to find a lone cemetery at the top of the hill in Weeping Water. I’m telling you, this is pretty exciting stuff.
- While it’s important to be safe (and I haven’t been in an accident yet) campaigning is the one time I can get away with multiple U-turns and what I consider “crazy” driving. It’s something I look forward to…
- Boys who can make me laugh at 11pm when I’m exhausted and tired are great.
- Moms who can single-handedly take their 6 little girls out and drop literature in the cold are amazing. Superwomen. I want to be one someday…
Praise the Lord for His goodness. We’re glad to have been a part of the Kintner for Legislature campaign!
- A long, hot shower at the end of a cold day.
- Ovens that don’t pour out smoke… most of the time.
- Friends halfway around the globe.
- The fact that I can pray for friends halfway around the globe.
- My cozy purple bedroom.
- A job that I love.
- Refreshing conversations.
- Coffee on a cold day.
- Parents who are close enough to be friends.
- A car that runs.
- Fashion… and beauty and delighting in looking pretty.
- Dinner that gets on the table at 6pm.
- When the boys are doing dishes, side by side, without arguing.
- Comments from my readers (yes, you!).
- My Eiffel Tower painting brought back all the way from Paris, hanging over my bed.
- The fact that I can walk and run and dance and not be confined to a wheelchair.
- When Grandma is delighted over the simplest thing, like a hot bowl of her favorite soup.
- Caleb when he offers to help in the kitchen.
“… Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
1 Thessalonians 5:18