Behind The Ring

Behind The Ring

For those of you who know Joe, you know he is a very resourceful person. So it should come as no surprise to learn that he dug the gems for my engagement ring out of the ground. He had always wanted to make the ring his proposed with from scratch. Yes, SCRATCH. He wanted to forage for all the materials down to the silver but after realizing this was a lofty goal, he settled for the gemstones. So how did he do it?

img_1305
Photography by Cottonwood Road Photography

First, let’s go over the basics. Did you know gemstones are actually minerals but not all minerals are gemstones? Minerals have to be super pretty to be considered gems and those gems are then polished and cut into jewelry-quality stones (Example: Quartz is pretty much worthless but under the right conditions, it’s also amethyst). The minerals lucky enough to call themselves ‘gems’ are classified into two categories based on their rarity:

Precious: diamond, ruby, emerald, sapphire.

Semi-precious: Amber, calcite, jade, amethyst, topaz, etc.

This designation can change at a moment’s notice. Amethyst used to be considered one of the cool kids but got demoted as more and more deposits were found. Overall, the value of a gemstone is rated using the “Four C’s”: cut, clarity, color, and carat. The reddest, largest, clearest ruby is considered the best. Pretty simple.  There are a lot of minerals in the United States and there are actually a lot of places that will you allow you to hunt for your own. So Joe had a few options. Luckily for him, Texas is known for its blue topaz and for good reason. Blue topaz occurs naturally in only two places on earth: Brazil and Mason County, Texas, making it pretty rare.

FUN FACT: Did you know that diamonds are not actually rare? The only reason why you see them in the precious gem category is because of a diamond monopoly and really good advertising.

 

Joe took two trips over a 6 month period to pan for topaz in the creeks of Mason County. On the first trip, he didn’t find anything. But on trip #2, he found the three stones used in my ring. In their natural state, gems are considered “raw” and need to be cut (the Four C’s!) and polished. So just because you find a decent sized gem doesn’t mean that’s the size it’s going to be in the ring. Thankfully the stones he found did the trick and he walked away with a 3 carat white topaz and two 1 carat blue topaz.

 

He took the gems to his friend’s jewelry studio, Gevandov, and he was able to match Joe up with someone who would cut the topaz for him. Joe chose the arrangement and viola. All he had to do was pop the question. Now, I was fully aware that Joe wanted to make the ring himself. So needless to say, I was a bit nervous as to what the ring was going to look like. Joe knew the types of settings I liked and had asked me general questions on colors and styles. The rest was blind trust that Joe knew what he was doing. On September 18, 2014, he dropped the knee and popped the question. I grabbed the ring out of his hand before he could finish the proposal.

was absolutely floored by how good he did. It’s an absolutely gorgeous ring and so

img_1303
Photo by Ron Accord Photography

much work and thought went into it. One of my favorite things about it is the fact its not perfect. If you look closely, there is an “impurity” in the main stone. Looks like a splinter. What a perfect reminder that marriage doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.

If you are interested in hunting for topaz (or any rocks or minerals), Joe and I would love to be your guides. Let us know!

 

img_5049

The List

The List

Fun fact about me: I lead a bible study/small group of soon to be 9th grade girls. In 6th grade, after going through a biblical dating series, I had them write down their ideal husband so as to show them years later how ridiculous their versions of the perfect man were. I was going through them a few days ago and stumbled upon something I didn’t expect to find: my own list! Even crazier: I made this list 2 months before dating my husband.  As I realized the timing of my wishlist, I was curious to compare the man I thought I wanted with the man that I married.

dating

 

The “Real List” (left):

  • A man after God’s own heart. Found him :).
  • Has self control and respects my boundaries. Little did I know that the man I would marry would not only respect physical boundaries but put a ‘no kissing’ rule in place.  I was not happy about that at first but am so thankful for it now!
  • We agree on politics and theology. Early on in our relationship, we had a lot of tough conversations about the age of the Earth. Joe, being a geophysicist, believes the earth to be millions of years old. I grew up as a young earth supporter, vowing anyone who disagreed with me “wasn’t really a believer”.  Needless to say, this was a sore issue for me. In the end, it provided both of us an opportunity to study scripture and science, learning that the two don’t have to be opposites. Science and scripture can be used to support both views.
  • Wants to have kids. We want a minimum of 3 and already have their names picked out (nicknames, too).
  • Good at confrontation and communication. I find this one hilarious because prior to dating Joe I would have told you I was the worst at conflict and communication. Why did I put such high standards on the man pursuing me? Thankfully, Joe and I are learning to be better communicators as we deal with conflict. Something that doesn’t come easy for the both of us.

The “Fun List” (right):

  • Can dance. For anyone who has seen Joe work the dance floor, I can proudly say I married the best and worst dancer I’ve ever met in my life. He can two-step something fierce and also freak dance (for lack of a better term). We have literally had requests for what his ‘fans’ refer to as “The Airplane”. Ask Joe when you see him…
  • Slender with dark hair. Basically the opposite of Joe. And to be honest, I don’t know what I meant by ‘slender’. If I meant that health is important to the guy, then Joe fits that bill. But it kinda sounds like I wanted a member of One Direction… which is gross to think about. Who knows…
  • Will take me to musicals. This one seems weird to y’all but I have grown up loving musical theater and musicals are a huge part of my childhood. So I was super pumped to find out Joe likes them too. Or at least doesn’t hate them.
  • Has good taste in fashion and music. I honestly have no idea why this is even on this list. Fashion and music have never been things I cared about. And I married a man who had a mullet for three months and who loves Icelandic rock music. But he can sure rock a bow tie.
  • Can sing. Not the worst singer in the world.
  • Wants to stay in Dallas or Texas. He didn’t for a long time. For the first 1.5 years we dated he wanted to move to Ohio or overseas which was not cool with me. We both grew in that area. I learned to have the heart of Ruth (Ruth 1:16) and he learned that Dallas is a pretty cool place.

Finding this list made me reflect on a very important lesson: God is a far better matchmaker than I am. If I had gotten everything on my list, I would have married an extremely weird combination of Gene Kelly and Kirk Cameron. Was my heart in the right place? For the most part, yes.  But let’s be real. When we think of the ‘perfect man’, we don’t think of a human being. We think of storybook character. We think of all these qualities and all these attributes that really mean jack-squat. The perfect man exists but He died on a cross and rose again over 2,000 years ago. So when we look for who we want to marry, we shouldn’t look through rose-colored glasses, we should look through the lens of the cross.

The first time I met my husband he was barefoot, had long hair, and spoke 4 sentences to me. He is completely opposite of my personality type, would prefer I made my own deodorant, and thinks showering everyday is a waste of water. And I couldn’t imagine spending my life with anyone else. I am truly in awe that I could love someone so much. Little did I know 3 years ago that my 8th graders wouldn’t be the only ones getting a lesson.

I’m More Excited For My Marriage Than My Wedding

I’m More Excited For My Marriage Than My Wedding

I have been engaged for a little over two months now and wedding planning has been in full swing. With less than 4 months to go before the ‘big day’, there are still quite a few details to hash-out. Now that I’m on the planning side of things, I’ve noticed something: The modern wedding has taken the focus completely off the marriage. Instead of focusing on celebrating the union of two people who love each other, the merging of two families, and the starting of a new one, the modern wedding celebrates the quality of your centerpieces, the creativity of your wedding favors, and the price tag of your wedding dress. Have we forgotten what we’re celebrating?

After signing up for The Knot (a wedding website that helps with planning, ideas, forums, etc.), my inbox suddenly started getting a lot more e-mails: “50 Wedding Photos you NEED at your wedding”, “Look 10 Pounds Thinner”, “How to make your first dance perfect!”. The wedding industry thrives off comparison, encouraging you in whatever way they can to ‘keep up with the Joneses’. The wedding you’ve wanted since you were two is no longer good enough, big enough, or glamorous enough. There are rules to be followed in regards to programming, timing of events, and the color of the mother-in-law’s dress. Expectations are so high, no wonder women turn into Bridezillas. They are consumed with wanting a movie-worthy celebration. Women strive to compete in a make-believe contest for “Best Wedding” until they drive themselves crazy.

“In 1959, Bride’s magazine recommended that couples set aside two months to prepare for their wedding and published a checklist with 22 tasks for them to complete. By the 1990s, the magazine recommended 12 months of wedding preparation and published a checklist with 44 tasks to complete.”

“What The Cost Of Your Engagement Ring May Say About Your Marriage”Huffington Post

Back in the day, weddings were not an elaborate affair. They consisted of small family gatherings at the home of the bride or groom’s parents.  The dress wasn’t shopped for or even white, it was simply the best dress the bride owned. It wasn’t until the mid-1800’s that weddings started to get fancy. The upper class started to throw parties similar to weddings we see today. In the 1900’s, brides began ordering a dress specifically for their wedding day. Wedding registries, as we know them, didn’t exist until the 1920’s. Before that, the only wedding gifts were in the bride’s dowry: a collection of items her parents presented to the groom along with their daughter. This turned into guests giving essential items to the newlywed couple so they could start their life together with life’s basic needs met. Today, not only are guests expected to give a gift, they are expected to bring another gift to any and every shower they attend for the couple. The engagement ring has changed a lot as well. Though most of us have never lived in a world where diamonds weren’t “forever”, the classic diamond engagement ring didn’t exist until 1947. It was part of a marketing campaign by DeBeers, a diamond cartel, trying desperately to fight the collapse of diamond prices due to the Depression. They created a campaign that dramatically changed the wedding industry and consequently, the diamond is the primary stone used for engagement rings.

“In 2012, total expenditures on diamond rings were roughly $7 billion in the United States alone.”

“What The Cost Of Your Engagement Ring May Say About Your Marriage” – Huffington Post

It has always cost money to throw a party and in the 20’s and 30’s, the average wedding cost $5,000 (adjusted for inflation). According to The Knot, the average cost for a wedding in 2013 was $29,858.  That is almost a 500% increase. Couples now spend more than the U.S. median income on their nuptials. What was once a religious covenant has become an example of extreme consumerism and the ultimate form of self-expression.

Weddings were once a simpler ceremony. An intimate celebration between families to celebrate the unity of their children. For religious peoples, a wedding celebrates the union of a couple as they become one before God. A covenant. A promise of fidelity and love for a lifetime. Have we lost sight of this? What if we were more excited about our marriage than our wedding? What if we put more effort in our relationship with our fiance’ than the design of the cake or the color of the flowers? I firmly believe that if we put more emphasis on the marriage than the party, marriages would look a lot different than they do today. Now, is it intrinsically wrong to spend a lot of money on your wedding? Not necessarily. However, I would argue that one’s heart can be in the wrong place. I’ve had to stop myself a few times in the midst of wedding planning from falling into the comparison trap, comparing my wedding ideas to those of my peers and to those in magazines. There is nothing wrong with wanting your “Happily Ever After” wedding. But when we lose sight of the purpose of the wedding and the meaning of marriage, we lose sight of everything.

“[The wedding is] just the beginning of your life together, not the climax.” – Dr. Steve Orma

That’s why so many men and women become depressed after their wedding day. Post-wedding depression is an actual diagnosis. Once you’ve walked down the aisle, the cake’s been eaten, and the attention has gone, reality sets in. You’ve got your whole life ahead of you. Your marriage just started. You’ve just embarked on the hardest and most rewarding journey of your life and it’s not always a party. And that’s ok.

I pray my wedding day isn’t the happiest day of my life. I hope it’s the next day, and the next, and the next. I hope for a lifetime of happy days amid tough times. I pray that we use our wedding day to glorify God, to love on those who have supported us and will continue to do so, to eat good food,  to have good conversations, and to dance until our feet fall off. I pray we wake up the next morning, with our hearts even more determined to love each other the way God loves us (1 John 4:19). At the end of the day the flowers will fade, the food will be thrown out, and the dress will sit in your closet, but the covenant made will last a lifetime.

I’ve never kissed my boyfriend.

I’ve never kissed my boyfriend.

“How will you know if you’re compatible if you guys have never kissed?”

258325_10102726882657174_305337452_oThis question is the very reason why my boyfriend and I haven’t made a big deal about the fact that we haven’t kissed yet. We haven’t lied about it or hidden it and, if you asked us, we’d tell you without shame. But there is definitely a stigma around choosing to save your first kiss until marriage.

I grew up in a Christian home and always knew I wanted to save myself for my wedding night. But when my boyfriend asked that we not kiss until the wedding, I admit I was a little upset. No kissing? I remember the first thought that popped into my mind was, “He doesn’t want to kiss me. That is why he is putting this boundary in place.” I felt insecure. Something must be wrong, right? My twisted mind was putting all of this importance on the physical and not on the most important aspect of a relationship: companionship. He wasn’t setting the boundary because he didn’t want to kiss me, he was setting it because he knew that sexuality, no matter how innocent, can cause relationships to get sidetracked, and in some cases, it can confuse what is actually there. He liked me so much that he wanted to put steps in place that would insure that our relationship wouldn’t be focused on the physical, but on Christ.

Like no other before us, our generation has placed a significant emphasis on sexuality and it’s role in dating. Sex is no longer reserved for marriage. Heck, it’s not even reserved for someone you know. It has been cheapened to a recreational activity between strangers. No commitment and no longer special, it has become the entire focus of most relationships. This “try before you buy” mentality is corrupting the beauty of real relationships.

“If the sex isn’t good, the relationship isn’t good.”

“You need to make sure he is a good kisser.”

“How do you know if you want to marry him/her if you haven’t lived together/slept together/kissed?”

With the divorce rate increasing every year and millennials waiting until much later in life to marry, we need to start re-evaluating what we look for in a spouse and what we believe about love.  Despite what culture and the media will tell you, love is not a feeling. Sure, feelings can be a side effect of love but it should never be what your relationship is based on. Feelings come and go and, as hard as you try, you can’t control them. So why would you want to base your relationship on something that is ultimately fleeting? Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”.  Our hearts are fickle things that tend to change their minds based on uncontrollable factors. I know if I trusted my feelings, I would be the most flighty, anxious, over-dramatic female out there. True love is a choice and sometimes, focusing so much on the physical aspect of your relationship can create feelings that aren’t based on constants, but based on how you feel in the moment.

Now hear me when I say that sex and romance play a vital role in marriage and God is for it! He created it! It binds two people together in the most intimate way possible. But it is not the only important component in a marriage and it should never be your deciding factor when looking for a spouse. 

Now you’re probably thinking, yeah yeah, I agree with the sex part, but don’t you think not kissing each other is taking it a little too far? Maybe for some people. It is definitely a personal choice and by no means do we condemn people for kissing their significant

photo 1eg

others. Heck, I know we both want to. After dating for almost a year and a half, it’s really hard! And in our defense, we do allow kisses on the cheek. But we both realized that, in our pasts, we put more importance on the physical aspects of relationships, which shifted our focus off the important things. Though it was Joe who led us in creating that boundary, I came to the realization that not kissing would give me the opportunity to evaluate whether or not I wanted to marry him without being distracted. It hasn’t been easy but it has taught us both a ton, like self-control for starters. And instead of spending our time together having make-out sessions (we are both super jealous of you who do), we talk about life, cook together, take silly Instagram photos, and just enjoy our friendship.

As I mentioned, our physical boundaries are a personal choice that Joe and I made together and will look different in every relationship.  If you are or were in a relationship where you’ve pushed the physical boundaries, there is no shame. God is a god of mercy, love, and grace. We are not defined by our pasts and have been fully redeemed in the eyes of God. Though God calls us to live lives of purity, we will always fall short,  which is what makes Christ’s gift so amazing!

So has not kissing Joe harmed our relationship? Has it prevented us from discovering if we are truly ‘compatible’? Not one bit. In fact, it has made me respect him more than anyone else I know. And when we finally do have our first kiss, I have no doubt in my mind that it will be well worth the wait.

All The Single Ladies!

All The Single Ladies!

I think the worst part about being single is the pity looks you get from the committed or married population of the world. Like there is something wrong with you. Because, obviously, that is the only reason why you don’t have a date this weekend or a boyfriend or a husband. And that, my dear single friends, is just SILLY. But as silly as it sounds, I’ve been hearing this a lot from my single friends. Things like “Is there something wrong with me?”, “Why don’t guys like me?”, or “What am I doing wrong?”. As I watch my single friends struggle in singleness with me, my heart goes out to them. The self-deprecating tapes they play in their heads are vicious and cut deep to the soul. Who said you aren’t good enough? Who said you had to earn love? Who said you are anything less than spectacular? Whoever did, they’re wrong and I will punch them in the face. You’ve been lied to and I’m here to set the record straight. You have nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed about. You are a diamond in the rough (or maybe a diamond in plain sight). And I’m telling you something right now: he will be worth your wait. Because let’s be honest, the best things in life are the ones you wait for. Just because no one is asking you out doesn’t mean that you’ll never be asked. It also doesn’t mean that people don’t think you are awesome, beautiful, and valuable. All it means is that God has a better plan for you than you could ever imagine and He is saving you from unnecessary heartache and wasted time. So hang in there. I’ll keep you company in the Singles Club until God calls you or me out of it. In the meantine, set yours eyes on the other relationships in your life. Community is so important for your spiritual and emotional growth. When the dates finally come, your friends will be the ones helping you process them in a godly way. And most importantly, cling to God. He is the only thing that will bring you fulfillment and eternal happiness. With a husband, it’s “’til death do you part” but Christ has beaten death and will never leave you.  Find delight in HIM (Psalm 37:4) and don’t define your worth by the world’s idea of dating. Set your eyes on Christ for He is directing your path (Proverbs 3:5-6).  So yes, it sucks being reminded everyday of yet another engagement via Facebook and seeing a plethora of your friends’ wedding dress preferences and cake recipes on Pinterest. But your time will come. God has perfect timing.

Let’s Hear it for the Boys

Let’s Hear it for the Boys

You’ve probably seen or heard the phrase, “I’d rather have a Proverbs 31 woman than a Victoria’s Secret model”. This little campaign sparked out of Baylor University and caught fire. I am a huge supporter of this biblical campaign for many reasons. However, it has started me thinking why there isn’t a male-equivalent campaign. Yes, culture is attacking women, telling them they need to be rail thin, have big boobs, perfect skin, etc. etc. But culture is lying to men, too. The media is full of images of men that encourage sexual promiscuity, laziness, passivity, and other worldy passions. Any man on TV today fits this image. If I see another “family” show where the father is stupid and the wife rules the household, constantly repimanding her spouse for his laziness, I’m going to throw my remote out the window (or exit my Hulu window). This is percieved as “humor”. I don’t think there is anything humorous about a stupid, lazy man. That is not attractive and that is not ok. The other extreme is the “man’s man” who is tall, built, and highly sucessful. His success is determined by the clothes he wears, the car he drives, and the number of zeros in his salary. He controls his life by the credit card in his pocket and is admired by all. This image teaches men that money and success is the answer to all their problems and defines his worth. This leads to husbands and fathers who would rather provide for their families financially than emotionally. They would rather work overtime than spend time at home with their children. Now this doesn’t mean they don’t love their families, they have just been taught that this is the ‘right’ way to do things. The media also encourages sexual promiscuity in men of all ages. Boys are taught their worth is derived by the number women they sleep with (Just watch any show on ABC Family or even How I Met Your Mother, among others). Character’s lives are defined by the constant attempt to get laid and how to manipulate women to do so. To make matters worse, men who have chosen to remain sexually pure are portrayed as weak and are the butt of all the jokes. Staying ‘pure’ is seen as unrealistic, undesirable, and unmanly. Just like women, men are told they have to look a certain way to be handsome: big muscles, tall, athletic… Newsflash ladies, males models are airbrushed, too. Beauty is fleeting in men just as quickly as in women. Ryan Gosling is not always going to look that way. What is more important is the way he acts; His character. One’s character never fades.

As a women striving to be a Proverbs 31 woman, I can only wonder why there is such an emphasis on women. Men should be equally encouraged to pursue a Christ-like character: A man who loves his wife as Christ loves the church, giving himself up for her (Ephesians 5:25). A man who is faithful and loyal, giving honor to marriage (Proverbs 5:15, Hebrews 13:4). A man who doesn’t take advantage of the women in his life (Col. 3:19). A man who stands firm in his beliefs and who is courageous (1 Cor. 16:13). A man who is not passive, but subdues his world (Genesis 1:28, Psalm 8:3-8). A man who is merciful, just, and humble (Micah 6:8). A man who rules his household in a way that earns respect, not with laziness and passivity, and not in a way that engenders fear (1 Timothy 3:4-5). And, above all, a man who fears the Lord (Psalm 128:1-4).

These are the qualities and characteristics we should be encouraging in our sons, our fathers, our husbands, and our guy friends; encouraging men to be who God calls them to be, not this world.

If men would rather have a Proverbs 31 woman than a Victoria’s Secret model, then I’d rather have a godly man than a man who defines his worth by worldly standards and worldy pursuits.