The First Date

By Veronica Johnson

First dates can be dreamy, disappointing, or straight up awkward—especially if they are anything like mine. Unless there are major red flags on the first date, I would suggest that the first date does not need to be the deciding factor for a potential relationship or lack thereof. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself or your date the first time around.

I am speaking from my experience of doing the exact opposite. I always dreamed the man I would marry would already be saying “ma’am” and wearing cowboy boots with flannels, ready to swing me around the dance floor. While my man does love a good flannel these days, he does not fit the rest of the mold I had carved for him (the kind that came with a list—pages long—of necessary traits for a perfect husband). I am not saying that young ladies need to lower their standards to find a husband (striving for virtue is non-negotiable), but I am saying we could work on expectation management! At least, if you are anything like me.

Five years ago, I had been talking with a guy over texts and phone calls for a few months. He was a colleague of my brother-in-law’s and from his Facebook pictures, he was extremely good looking. I had met him in person a couple of times at my sister’s house and thought he was nice enough, a little socially awkward, but who isn’t sometimes?

Anyway, I am visiting my sister on my Thanksgiving break and really want to spend some time with this Iowan Marine Corps hottie—oh, I mean, blessed son of God. So, of course I text him and ask if he wants to go for a walk on the beach or something. He says he has a better idea—that he wants to take me out to dinner on a date (men—don’t be afraid of this word—it is a thousand attractive points when used to make plans with a girl!). So I am thinking he will take me somewhere like Olive Garden, you know, with servers waiting on you. Nah, he takes me to Noodles and Company (which honestly is perfectly fine looking back on it, but at the time, it was strike one, because I was—and still can be—a bit high maintenance). I find that he is no conversationalist, but at least he refrains from droning on and on about himself for hours like I had experienced on previous dates. He is way more handsome in person anyway, so dinner goes by more or less okay, thanks to my skills at interrogation.

We then go to the beach for a walk, at my request. We don’t end up doing any walking though, because the dear man can’t handle the cold sand on his bare feet, bless his heart (strike two—cowboy up). Instead, we sit on our jackets to look at the stars, and as soon as we lean back to actually enjoy it, a gigantic monstrous bear (which turns out to be a German Shepherd puppy) comes charging at me and nearly tears my face off (sniffs my head, but I don’t know what is happening—it is dark and I just hear paws and loud breathing coming at me). I jump up with a shriek and my gallant knight laughs (he doesn’t throw himself betwixt me and my foe like my dream Hallmark man would have). He just sits there and acts like nothing just threatened my life. Good thing he’s not a dog lover, because my dislike of the creatures certainly showed that night. I was shaken, to say the least, and definitely feeling pretty stupid.

I am basically ready to end the night at this point, but he tells me he wants to swing by Walmart on the way back. Nothing classier than a trip to Walmart. He picks out a bag of coconut Lindt truffles I am eyeing (good man) and heads toward the office supplies he needs. En route, he sees a bean bag chair that might suit his apartment (which I would later learn was already exquisitely furnished with an air mattress and futon). He tosses it on the floor and plops himself on top. Only, the bean bag chair shoots out from under him and he lands sprawled flat on his back on the floor of Walmart like a helpless turtle (strike three).

I was so embarrassed, I could not end the night fast enough! What kind of guy makes such a scene in Walmart? Although to his credit, he really didn’t make a big deal of it. Nonetheless, I was sure I would never see him again. I took the Miraculous Medal that I had with me and secretly put it in the cup holder of his car. I wanted Mama Mary to watch over this poor guy who needed all the help he could get with girls and was leaving for a deployment in two months. I sure as heck was not going to be the one sticking around for him.

Maybe it was divine intervention, maybe it was the truffles he bought me, but you better believe I am married to that man. I definitely would not have thought so at the time of our first date. After weeks and months and years of his reliable presence and friendship, I am so grateful my thoughts that night were proven wrong. It took a few dates before we actually felt comfortable being around each other and our conversations became more meaningful and enjoyable. I am so glad he convinced me to see him again a month later (he drove halfway across the country to do it!). He continued to impress me with the time and effort he was willing to put in to make our relationship work. We lived in different states—about seven hours apart—until we got married. He would drive up to see me for a weekend at least once a month; if that isn’t commitment, I don’t know what is.

If anything can be taken from this experience, I hope it is that not every first date (or any date!) will be perfect. That doesn’t mean this person isn’t the one for you. Relationships need time and effort to nurture and grow. Love is a conscious choice that will sometimes take work! The perfect potential spouse you imagine does not exist in real life. God wants you to deny yourself and choose to love like He does—to love someone else in their entirety, brokenness and all.

Last I checked, we are all sinners, and we all fall short of the perfection we tend to seek in a spouse. So don’t expect to find your knight in shining armor on the first date. He won’t be there. Surrender yourself to the one perfect Bridegroom, Christ, and then give another imperfect person the opportunity to pursue virtue and heaven with you more perfectly each day. “The one” is the person you choose to keep choosing every day for the rest of your life. No marriage can survive without sacrifice, as I continue to learn. So please, reign in those expectations, especially on your first date!

To the One with a Hurting Heart

By Amelia Brennan

To the One with a Hurting Heart,

Our hearts are interesting things. As humans we have the ability to love and be loved as no other created being can. But we are not perfect, so how could we ever perfectly love? We are fallen, and so we experience sadness, brokenness and heartbreak. And that heartbreak can come from a breakup, the loss of friend, a broken family, or anything that hurts our hearts and breaks a little piece of it. Whatever it may be, we have all experienced heartbreak.

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Chivalry Is for Women Too

By Hadley Adair

Valentine’s Day was approaching, and I, being the haughty, single woman I was, had adopted a new motto. I began to tell everyone I encountered: “You know, guys cannot complain about being single on Valentine’s Day. That’s all on them.” This phrase led to my reasoning that if they want a girlfriend, then they have the freedom to ask a girl out, but us poor women are simply maidens in waiting. Poor us, striving for authentic, Christ-centered relationships, yet living in a time when chivalry is far gone. I had reduced my vocation to the mere passivity of waiting to receive, while at the same time demanding of men immediate and heroic action.

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Where Are All the Married Saints?: A Woman’s Perspective on Discernment

Originally published on Beloved Dreamer by Emily Capps

Growing up in a Catholic home-school family, I often read stories about the saints—stories of great men and women dedicating their lives to God in extraordinary ways. They would leave behind all their possessions to the poor, fast for long periods of time, practice acts of self-denial, and spend hours each day in meditation and prayer. They chose to consecrate themselves as perpetual virgins for the Lord, and truly answered the call to leave behind everything to follow Him.

I too wanted to be a saint. And I recognized that this extreme asceticism was not everyone’s calling, and that some of the saints were even advised by their superiors to stop certain extreme practices. I knew that there was more than one way to sainthood, that each of us is called to a different vocation. But at the same time, as I grew older and started discerning my own vocation, I started to wonder: Where were all the stories about married saints? Was marriage not an equally holy vocation?

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Dear Future Wife: A Man’s Perspective on Discernment

By Chandler Donaldson

Dear Future Wife,

The first time I wrote those words, I was 18 years old. Ironically, I was in seminary at the time. Regardless of the obvious contrast those words had to my current life situation, something about them felt right. Although I had a lot more discerning to do and many more letters to write, those words created something tangible in my heart.

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