I wanted to be sure and thank each one of you who have stopped by the blog to congratulate Ben and me on our recent engagement and for all the kind things you had to say! I so enjoy hearing from each and every one of you.
Ben and I have been asked a lot about "our story", and really, it's impossible to summarize the multitude of ways we have seen God's hand in the smallest of details from the very beginning, and feel content that He's been praised and glorified enough for all we've seen Him do. We are so grateful, and have shared much joy in approaching our relationship according to our understanding of God's will and design for purity.
Please, sit back, relax, and get comfortable as we give you a peek into the past year and four months...
Ben: This last year has been amazing. In many ways, the best year of my life. Getting to know Emily has been the greatest privilege I have ever had. Our story didn't start with a bang! The decision that started it all was a seemingly unimportant one: just as the sprout of a tree or the beginning of the Mississippi is seemingly small and unimportant. I didn't really think about it, and yet that click online started something that changed my life.
It's funny. The conversation we had wasn't romantic. In fact, it didn't enter my mind for a month that Emily was even a prospect for marriage, even though I'd known her for years. Our conversation revolved around spiritual things. I was very encouraged by her obvious love for God and knowledge of the Bible. After about a month of writing her, I showed one of our messages to my dad who promptly said something like, "If I was her dad, I'd want to know that my daughter was writing you." He gave me this, "Are you thinkin' about her?" look. Well, I wasn't, but after that day, I really felt led to pray about asking to get to know Emily better. It was crazy. The more I prayed, the more strongly I felt in my spirit that it was the Lord's will...and the more my mind said, Probably won't work out. Her family is so perfect. She's been involved in major youth ministry. She'd never think of throwing it away.
After a month of prayer, I decided that I would follow the Lord's leading by at least going to Sioux Falls to see Emily and at the most, asking her dad for permission to get to know her during my upcoming military training.
After making this decision, I took some time off and traveled to South Dakota for a New Year's Eve party which I heard she was probably going to attend. I ended up playing foosball with her and noticing some weird similarities. We would both laugh at the same time, both come up from the table at the same time, etc. It was fun, but more weird than anything. At this point, I really felt the Lord's leading to talk to her to try and discern her spirit. Not long after that, I got the chance to talk to her for nearly half an hour -- in the freezing cold I might add.
By now I was in a quandry. I was feeling the Lord's go-ahead, coupled with a very strong impression that her spirit was true and genuine. On the other hand, I got the feeling that she was the "perfect girl" and it just wouldn't work out. Not knowing what to do, I quickly prayed, Lord, whatever your will is, please impress it quickly and strongly on my heart. Before I could re-enter the party, my cousin, Rachel, came out and said, "If you're gonna ask Pastor Schuurmans about Emily, you should do it now." My decision was made.
That Sunday I asked her dad if I could meet with him. He agreed, and the time was set for 8:00 AM at the Pancake House on Monday morning. The day did not begin well. I got lost in Sioux Falls. I had given myself time for this dilemma, but as 8:00 neared, I started to get nervous. Maybe this was just not meant to be, I thought. I finally found the Pancake House and pulled in...with two minutes to spare.
I must say, Emily, that I was nervous as I explained the Lord's leading to your dad and asked to get to know you better in a "pre-courtship" relationship. He put me at ease very quickly as he graciously listened. After about 30 minutes, he told me that he would commit the matter to prayer and after a while, ask you. I left with reason to hope a little, but again not much faith. My mind was very busy as I walked to my car and pulled the door handle...only to find that the car was locked with my keys and phone inside. Well this ends it, I thought as I flagged her dad down to borrow his cell.
Later on that night, I spent some time over at her brother Stephen's place...and had no idea all night that she already knew I had asked to get to know her. I was a little apprehensive at first, but she put me totally at ease...as she has ever since. After some lively conversation and intense rounds of Dutch Blitz, I thought for the first time, Man, it would be cool if this actually did work out! Soon after, I left South Dakota without an answer and definitely hoping for the chance to get to know her better.
On Janauary 7th, 2012, I got an email from her dad asking what I envisioned a pre-courtship relationship would look like. After a few emails, he wrote back asking me to come down and spend some personal time with Emily. I loved the idea and immediately planned to spend my last weekends before Basic with her.
The Hansons (my cousins), were more than glad to have me come down again. Hannah even printed out mapquest instructions so I wouldn't get lost again. Turns out I got lost even worse than before. The instructions took me to a dead end road miles away from her house. I just lose my way ever time I try to find this girl, I thought. Finally after a few phone calls, I found her house and walked up to the door...pretty embarrassed by this point. Thankfully, she and her family didn't tease me too much and I felt right at home before too long. Her dad put Emily and meo to work on the music room, and I asked her right away about what she believed in many of the areas that are very important to me. The last weekend I spent with her I really enjoyed myself and felt myself being drawn to her. I pretty much immediately tried to squash the feeling. I still didnt know her and was going to be gone for a long time. I did look forward to writing and talking to her...and asking a lot of questions.
The next nine weeks were a whirl of blood, sweat and tears. The only time I really had to write was at night with a flashlight on my bunk. It was there that I first missed her. It wasn't strong yet, but I looked back with fondness on our time together and looked forward to her letters very much! The first time I got my phone back, I almost dreaded to call her. I've never been good at expressing myself on the phone and didn't want to be misunderstood...and yet when I called her, it felt so easy and right. The second phone call I looked forward to! From then on, our weekly phone calls were the highlight of my life. The more we talked and wrote, the more I realized how close we were in theology, convictions, music, movies...everything! Slowly but steadily, I realized that she was so much more than the girl I thought she was at the start. We are similiar in even the funniest little details. I don't know exactly when, because it didn't happen all at once, but I started to miss her more and more and feel more and more strongly that it was God leading us together. By June, I felt this dull ache, like something important was missing, and by July, I missed her terribly. One conversation that I really remember from this time was one where we talked about ministry to young men. This girl really shares my vision, I thought.
It was so hard to be drawing close to her and yet be so very far away! After completing Signal School and moving to Airborne School, I had more time to call her and the feeling of loss whenever I thought of her was almost unbearable. I knew without a shadow of a doubt that it was the Lord's will to ask to court her, and so, after talking to her, I called her dad. I was surprised with a quick yes. The trust her dad has placed in us has been such a blessing!
The whole time at Airborne School is already a blur, but two things stand out to me. The time we had a six-hour conversation, and the first time she said, "I miss you." The former was such a special time. It was hard to tear myself away even after so many hours. The latter will be indelibly etched in my mind forever. It thrilled my heart to the very core!
One of the greatest disappointments in my life also happened there: having to stay an extra week in Georgia away from her. It was then that I realized just how terribly I missed her. Long as that week was, it passed...and before long, I was headed to South Dakota with a beating heart to court her...the girl who has not just become inexpressibly dear to me, but also my best friend.
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Emily: Where does a girl start? Even if I began recalling the faintest of memories from the very first times Ben and I saw each other, it wouldn’t feel as though I’ve done this journey justice, because God has known since before even then, that the two of us would come together in marriage…He has “called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began....”
Though we had met and had brief conversations over the years, it wasn’t until we became friends online that we started actually getting to know each other. I had seen his picture on the right hand side of Facebook for quite some time with the “Add Friend” link beneath it, but decided not to add him. In my mind, I was thinking very subconsciously, No, if anything ever comes of us, I want it to be because he initiated things, not me. The fact that I even had that thought run through my mind should’ve caught my attention, as, though I had every reason to respect him, I really had no interest to be more than friends.
Well, eventually the day came that I got a notification that "Ben Mitton added you as a friend on Facebook." Some time passed after I “confirmed him” as a friend and shortly after that, he responded via private message to a comment I made on a status of his.
“Guess who I heard from today?” I said in passing to Mom. “Ben Mitton.” She looked a little surprised,“Really?”… that was pretty much the extent of it. I actually had committed to putting my dad in the Cc field of any email I sent to an unrelated, single man, as a means of protection and personal accountability. However, since Ben wrote me on Facebook, that kind of got by-passed, but I wanted to be careful, and though our messages continued, I kept tabs with my parents on the casual, occasional correspondance that had begun. I knew that talking with him was very easy, as we have so many common interests and have so much of the same mind on things, and so I had some concern that he may become interested in me. This of course wouldn't be a problem :), except I didn't see myself moving forward with him. It wasn’t that I didn’t like hearing from him – on the contrary, I was impressed with his letters, the spirit of humility that colored them, the love he had for others and for the Lord, his boldness, and his genuine love of truth.
After a while, I got a letter from him in the mail. Mom, Dad, and I had just come home from somewhere, and I read to them his letter to me -- after running away from them laughing while I read it myself, that is… ;) Dad listened and then left my room…and later while I was practicing piano, the three of us were in the music room and Dad stared at me with this sad look in his eyes... “What’s wrong?” I asked. “Well…” he shrugged, “I’m losing you.…” It felt poignant…but also, I didn't quite understand...I mean, Ben hadn't asked to court me or anything, and if he did, it wasn’t like this would be the first guy to talk to Dad, and it definitely wasn’t like he and I would ever actually get married!! I didn’t even think I liked him in that way…
Fast forward to New Year's Eve. It had been about a year and a half since I had seen him last. We ended up playing foosball and Hannah (his cousin) quickly volunteered to play on the same team as her brother (which meant Benjamin and I would be on our own side), and then, when each of us offered for someone else to step in for a round after a game or two, she actually gave up her spot so we would continue to play together (both of which were very un-Hannah-like)…I knew something was up!! I just smiled. The perfect opportunity came for us to talk when we were outside later. We talked for a while. It was cold, and Hannah actually brought out my coat for me, but I could tell Ben was freezing. After a while we went in, and it was time to go.
The next day was Sunday. I remember clearly him coming up the stairs in his sharp suit. After the service, he and Hannah came to me. We talked briefly, and he left while Hannah and I talked – little did I know he was asking Dad to meet with him right behind my back. I found out pretty quickly though, as when Dad and I were driving away in the church parking lot, he said, “Guess who wants to meet with me.…” I didn’t have to guess. “No way!!” I was excited, surprised he actually asked…a little nervous, but mostly not sure what to think.
Dad asked me to put together a list of questions that I would like to know about him, so he could use them the next morning. I stayed up late that night, thinking about what I would ask him if I could ask him anything…feeling pretty embarrassed halfway through, afraid I was being presumptuous and that he just wanted to meet with Dad for counsel or something, but Dad ended up leaving early the next morning, before I had a chance to give the list to him anyway. I think I paced all morning. When Dad finally returned home, Mom and I sat him down and asked about pretty much everything from what shirt Ben wore to how many times he breathed. When Dad relayed the conversation, I could see the respect on his face for Benjamin…could feel the pride swell in my own heart for him, as though I had any claim on him to be proud…but I also remember feeling disappointment at the same time. Disappointment because I didn’t think this was "the one" yet, and I didn’t know how the first meeting could have been any more perfect, so "it was a shame this one wasn't the man for me"…everything from the fact that he walked in on the dot, even after not being able to find the place at first; only eating a bite or two of his meal because he was nervous; speaking so kindly of his regard for me; the honor he showed by respecting me enough to go through my authority before pursuing me, and, well…even locking his keys in the car…I loved it all. :)
Dad, Mom and I talked about his request to correspond while he was gone in the Army and then start an “official” courtship when he returned. I knew if I continued to correspond with him while he was away that turning him down would be especially hard, if that was what I thought I should do…I needed to spend more time with him before answering, so I asked Dad if he could request Ben to come down a few times before leaving.
During his visits here, I had very conflicting feelings. We got along great. Clearly, we had the same spirit. But as much as I respected him, I had very little feelings for him yet, even when it seemed I had every reason in the world to be attracted. I realized I couldn’t force myself to feel anything. But, I remembered that the heart of the king is in the hand of the Lord, and so I rested in the fact that surely mine was as well, and if God wanted me to come to love Benjamin, He was going to have to do that work in my heart, in His time. Meanwhile, I was going to trust Him, be patient, and have fun!
However, the second to last time he came…I was yet again very unsure -- scared, a little emotionally confused, and feeling a little self-imposed pressure -- because I felt I should know by now and certainly before he left. I felt torn. I had at least two pretty significant talks with Mom and Dad where I expressed to them that I just didn’t have feelings for him. Dad eventually paused and said, “Do you know for sure -- are you 100% confident that he’s not the one?” I couldn’t say that I was. And so my parents counseled we should stick to the plan…have him come the last weekend and see how I felt then.
That last weekend I felt somewhat on the other side of the pendulum swing. I was much more relaxed, and I simply enjoyed our time together without trying to decide for sure what to do. The next couple weeks, though, I was all over the board. I had enough respect for Benjamin to not enter a relationship with him and risk his invested emotions without feeling confident that I was following the hand of the Lord. I fasted and prayed hard, and found complete peace in prayer – answers coming almost before I had my questions out. God was leading clearly through His Word as well. Honestly, I've never had God lead so clearly about a decision in my whole life. I met with a lady from church for whom I had a lot of respect, and the Lord used her wisdom and counsel to leave me even more impressed with the value of a godly man, and the blessing of God on me that Benjamin would have even asked to get to know me better.
I knew God was calling me forward. I told Mom and Dad I would agree to a “pre-courtship” with Ben. It was a turning point for me. But I knew so long as I was following to the best of my ability what I believed to be God’s will, He would honor it, and pour out His blessing.
It wasn’t long after we were writing that I felt very glad to have said yes to this next stage…very glad! While Ben was away in military training, I had the opportunity to observe him from afar, and my respect for him only grew as he was put in one leadership position after another, witnessed faithfully, was consistent in his love for the Word and for the Lord, and observed more than one soldier come to Christ.
When he was out of Basic Training and could call me on the weekends, those phone calls soon became what I looked forward to as the highlight of my week. On July 4th especially, I missed him terribly. My heart would completely fall when I heard those words,“Well, I hate to say this, but….” and he would tell me he needed to go again.
The more we wrote and talked, the more frequently I praised the Lord for Benjamin and His bringing of our lives together. Sometimes when I read his answers to my questions, I immediately bowed my knees and thanked the Lord for such a man...men like Benjamin who are standing alone and striving to love the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind and strength are increasingly rare in our age (you girls out there are all probably nodding your head emphatically), and we desperately need them to stand up and be godly, disciplined, loving leaders for our future sons and daughters.
One of the first things I admired about Ben was how, from the very start, he took the lead in our relationship by bringing us in prayer at the end of our weekend visits and at the end of virtually every phone call. Our vision, interests, hopes for the future, beliefs, and even life experiences were very similar and completely compatible. Not only that, but we were simply really good friends! We encouraged one another by what we were learning in the Scriptures, sharing witnessing encounters and ministry opportunities, and praying for one another. I asked him questions like where he saw himself in ten years, what he thought on Bible versions, eternal security, salvation, the roles of the father and mother in the home, and what were his burdens and passions. He asked me the same, and if I had any insecurities about being in a relationship and what they might be, what ministries I enjoyed the most and why, who were my role models, and what was most important to me in a man.
The day eventually came when Ben called Dad to get his official permission to begin a courtship upon his return. Mom, Dad, and I talked once again in their bedroom. They knew my heart and how things had changed for me but still wanted to make sure I felt confident in the direction we sensed the Lord was leading. I was confident! And grateful, so grateful God had led this far, with still more hope in the future.
Dad returned Benjamin's call, giving him his permission and blessing. Shortly afterwards, I received my own phone call. “I just wanted to call and thank you, Emily. I want you to know you made one soldier here at Ft. Gordon happier than he’s ever been.” Quite possibly the sweetest, shortest phone call I’ve ever received.... :)
Ben: The last five months of my life have by far been the happiest I have ever experienced. While I was in the military, Emily and I talked about a plethora of topics. I pretty much knew where she stood on every key doctrine of the faith. We knew much about each other's likes, dislikes, hobbies, etc., but we hadn't actually spent a lot of time together. I feared that the precious girl I knew when in Georgia would be different than she was over the phone...that our relationship wouldn't work as well in person. She put every doubt to rest immediately. From our very first meeting we "clicked," and from then on it has only gotten better and better.
Both Emily and I took our courtship very seriously. We entered into knowing that it could very well lead to marriage. It was not a time in which we focused on romance but on getting to know each other more personally and seeking the Lord and His will together. We decided not to hug, kiss, or share special touches until our marriage, but to save ourselves until then.
I spent every weekend that I could with her. I know the 400 or so miles in between Thief River Falls and Parker like the back of my hand. It seemed like every other time I went there was some kind of storm through which the Lord protected me. The only time I ended up in the ditch, I was able to drive back out thanks to His protection. Emily also visited me in Minnesota a couple times.
We always planned more than we could actually do together!! We've ice skated, gone on outings without knowing where we were going till we arrived, eaten at many of the good local restaurants, visited the Falls on a freezing winter day, taken walks through the woods, memorized Scripture, played many games of Scrabble and Settlers of Catan with her family, shared many quiet mornings in the Word and in prayer, spent many fun evenings watching a movie or talking, taken a road trip to Omaha, NE, and so much more. We were also able to minister together at a retirement home. It was so much fun to see how well we worked together as we planned about 30 minutes of music, personal testimony, and a Gospel presentation.
I've heard it said that you never know for sure that you've found the right one until you're married, and then she is the right one. I couldn't disagree more! The Lord has led us together from the very start of our courtship, through prayer, His Word, godly counselors, and the peace of His Spirit. It didn't happen over night, but like a gentle Father, the Lord led us together, slowly and steadily confirming and reconfirming His will. Before long, there was not a doubt in either of our minds that it was God's will for us to serve Him together in marriage. The more we have gotten to know one another, the more we have been shocked at how intricately we were designed to support, encourage, understand, and love one another...as if God himself before our birth looked at us and lovingly created us to complete each other as no one else in the world ever could.
In January, exactly a year after I got permission to get to know Emily, I was given permission to ask the love of my life to marry me. I had already started looking for a ring, and soon after getting permission, had a custom designer in New York City work on a special ring for the most precious girl in the world. I planned on asking her as soon as I possibly could, but it took a while to finish the ring.
I had no idea how much thought goes into choosing diamonds, matching diamonds, finding the perfect design, etc., etc., etc. It was so much fun to look forward to seeing her face as I slipped the ring on her precious little finger!
Finally after three weeks of waiting, the ring was ready to be picked up in Sioux Falls. Without anyone's knowledge, I quietly packed my bags and drove to South Dakota. I planned to ask her to marry me in the woods where we took our first walk, but as I walked into Faini Designs Studio in negative 40 degree weather, I knew I was going to have to change my plans. After surprising my Aunt Louise I got a hold of Hannah who was at a Wednesday night church service. She asked Emily to meet her at Panera the next day with no intention of showing up for said meeting. The trap was set!!
The next morning, I cleaned my car meticulously and drove into Sioux Falls. I went to Hy-Vee just to see what they had for flowers, and ended up finding an amazing bouquet. While they were arranging it, I stopped by Halberstadts and picked up a new cashmere jacket. When I got back to Hy-Vee, I realized that the bouquet was even better than I had hoped!! The lady who was working on the arrangement had smashed the first vase I had bought and then not only gave me the nicest vase in the store, but added 100 dollars' worth of silver sprigs to it!! I carefully put it in the car and headed over to Foleys to set it on the table I had reserved. When I got there the restaurant was closed!! This was bad, because I was to meet with Emily at 4:00, and it was 3:20 at the time! I called Foleys, and actually had a cook come and open the place early for me. After putting the bouquet in their winery, I rushed back over to Panera to meet with Emily. She ended up changing the time to 5:00, and didn't show up until 5:15. I left my car running so it would be nice and warm and was constantly walking over to the window to check on it!
Finally I saw her car pull into the parking lot and dashed back over to where I was supposed to meet her! I'll never forget the look of surprise on her face as she came around the corner and saw me. “Still wanna go out to dinner like we've been planning?” I asked. After her surprised but excited yes, she followed me out to the car. Now, I knew that when we got to Foleys she would totally be expecting a proposal, so I decided to propose...in the parking lot. I made sure to park behind a tall vehicle away from the wind. As I opened the door for her, and she sat inside I got down on one knee and asked her to marry me. The best decision I have ever made was to ask that question. The happiest I have ever been is when I heard the girl of my dreams say, “Yes.” We spent a very happy evening together at Foleys.
Since that day, we have been working very hard preparing for our wedding – our life together. It is our prayer that God's glory is made evident through our relationship, and that when our lives are over He will smile and say, "Well done, my good and faithful servants. Enter into the joy of your Lord."
Labels: ANNOUNCEMENTS, BENJAMIN, COURTSHIP, LOVE, PURITY