I cannot believe I’m saying this, but this week Carl and I are celebrating our seventh anniversary.
SEVEN. Isn’t that crazy?! In a way it feels like the last seven years have flown by. In another way, we have lived so much life in the last seven years, (losing four jobs between the two of us, moving to a new state where I didn’t know anybody but him, building two businesses, and most recently, having our identical twin girls, Annie and Quinn) I can’t believe it hasn’t been longer.
If I could go back and tell myself something on my wedding day, this is what I’d say, “You have no idea.”
I knew I loved Carl, I knew he was an amazing man, I knew we’d have such a good life together… but really, I had no idea. I had no idea just how amazing he is, I couldn’t have even imagined how I’d fall more in love with him by the day, and I had no idea just how silly and wild and wonderful and warm our life together would be.
(I also could NEVER have even come close to imagining what an incredible dad he’d be!)
Marrying you is the best decision I’ve ever made, sweet Carl Wilson. I love you more today than I ever have before, and tomorrow, it’ll be even more.
So friends, in honor of our seven year anniversary, I wanted to share the story of how we started dating—not from my perspective, but from Carl’s! Carl wrote this blog post years ago, right before we got engaged, and I’m so glad he did.
I love having our story captured in his words, and in a lot of ways, his words were the inspiration for my online course, Love Your Single Life.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Here’s Carl with our story:
“Glancing down at my phone just long enough to check the time, I quickly turned my focus back to my footing. The obstacle course of rocks, roots, and puddles lining the dirt path that cut through the woods ahead of me commanded more attention than I wanted to give.
Two more minutes.
I could still make it, but I quickened my pace anyway—just to be sure.
As the woods thinned, I lifted my eyes and caught the top of the pavilion’s steepled roof. I emerged from the protection of the trees just in time to be fully in sight before I stumbled clumsily over an errant, and particularly gnarly branch. I managed a half-jog recovery that wasn’t fooling anyone and quickly surveyed the scene, playing it cool.
No one saw.
My two minutes were up, so I kept jogging. I rounded the back of the pavilion and quietly found a seat on a picnic table just outside—close enough to hear, and maybe catch the corner of an eye as she scanned the tops of her audience’s heads.
Then, over the next twenty minutes, I fell in love.
I did my best to listen intently, but keeping myself seated and my jaw off the floor was requiring more concentration than anticipated. On the outside, to the best of my knowledge, I was doing a pretty good job of hiding what internally felt like a parade of goofiness, anxiety, and giddiness. She was captivating. And it wasn’t anything about the way she looked.
Don’t get me wrong. She’s absolutely gorgeous. But that was all icing.
As I sat and listened to her pour out the depths of her heart to a group of eager twenty-somethings, all I could hear was passion.
She spoke with the conviction and candor of someone who hadn’t just discovered who she wanted to be, but was living it out.
It was the most unexpected, refreshing, and wholesome beauty I could have imagined.
As she finished speaking, I found myself clapping in chorus with the rest of the audience. I wasn’t the only one impressed.
She made her way over to the edge of the pavilion and before I knew it, I was standing next to her as a handful of girls from the audience quickly surrounded her. I sat in silence and listened as one after another they told her how much her blog had meant to them—how something about the way she told stories, her own in particular, had changed the way they saw themselves.
They thanked her for her raw honesty, her transparent permission to dream, and the unapologetic joy she finds in the fleeting sparks of beauty in the world.
Taking it all in, I thought to myself, “If she can make such a profound difference in the lives of complete strangers, I want to be around her all the time.”
And since that day, I pretty much have been.
Stephanie is a beautiful storyteller, a selfless believer in people, and an incredible friend. But it’s not any of those things that initially attracted me to her. It was her passionate pursuit of life.
She had a fire in her that I wanted to be close to.
Just like me, she was on a journey to an ambitious future full of questions, dangers, and what-ifs. But that day, sitting there in the woods listening to her describe the absolute joy she was taking in the journey…
I knew that wherever we were going, I wanted to go there together.
Being single can become one of the most deeply sensitive and thought-consuming sources of insecurity we’ll ever face. We constantly field questions from ourselves and others (thanks, Mom) about where we’re going, why we’re alone, and what was so wrong, again, with that last relationship?
We reconsider our compatibility, self-worth, and faith in God—or at least the opposite sex.
On our best days, we convince ourselves that the man or woman of our dreams is right around the corner as we snuggle into the couch with a tall glass of wine and our old reliable standby, Netflix.
Other days we find ourselves bouncing back and forth between the latest articles about pursuit, dating, and how to find “Mr.–” or “Mrs. Right,” becoming more and more convinced that men don’t understand pursuit, girls are too complacent, and all the good ones are taken.
But since none of that really seems to help, what is life before ‘the one’ supposed to look like?
How do we find that person?
And what do we do in the meantime?
Do you sit and wait, hoping that somebody will find you? Do you chase love, pursuing it wherever you think it might be hiding?
Or do you pursue fulfillment that isn’t contingent on your relationship status?
I didn’t spend my single life perfectly, and I know Steph didn’t either. We both watched our share of Netflix, and both had doubts about the other ever showing up. But, eventually we both came to the same conclusion.
With or without a partner to share it with, we wanted to live lives of passion and of purpose.
Neither Stephanie nor I were looking for a relationship that day in the woods. We weren’t pursuing each other. But we were both pursuing life, our passions, and the Lord, and on that morning, our pursuits intersected. Since then, we’ve continued pursuing these things as well as each other. Now we get the best of both worlds.
My pursuit of Stephanie is made better because of my pursuit of the Lord, and my pursuit of the Lord is more abundant because I get to share it with her.
It’s not always perfect. Healthy pursuit of a relationship is difficult, to say the least. It’s full of ambiguity and factors outside of our control. But it becomes exponentially harder when we’re standing still. Don’t wait for life to come to you in the form of a relationship—your life is already here.
God’s journey for you doesn’t start with marriage, but you just might find it along the way.”
Hey friend, it’s Stephanie again. I just wanted to pop in with one last thought:
There were so many things I didn’t do right in my time of being single (like many, many, many things I didn’t do right), but I love this story because in all of the things I did wrong, this is something I really felt like I did right: I made the most of my single life.
All too often, people talk about singleness like it’s a waiting room, and I treated it that way for a long time, but I finally started taking big, decisive steps into the truth that it’s supposed to be so much more than that. I decided that that season while I was single was a time of preparation. It was a time of learning, of growing, and of becoming. I started to see that who I became while I was single is who I would be when I was married, and so I decided to invest in my life in ways that have had a significant impact on our marriage. It transformed our marriage before it even started.
(Which is why I’m so passionate about teaching this course!)
I have to be honest here though, I didn’t figure this out on my own.
I had some wonderful friends and mentors and even counselors who helped me get to this place. And I just wanted to pause here and say, you don’t have to do this alone either.
So many of us think we should be able to figure this out on our own—navigating singleness, dating, what to do about that guy we like—everyone else seems to have a handle on it, right? But that’s just not the truth. This is hard for everyone.
We all need help with different areas of our lives (our love lives in particular), whether we reach out for that help or not. But in this season of my life, I really learned that strength isn’t proving that I can do it on my own, it’s knowing that I don’t have to and surrounding myself with the best people, the best resources, and the best tools possible. Especially for an area of my life that I cared so much about.
So friend, if you feel like you could use some help navigating singleness, dating, and getting yourself ready for marriage, I would love to pass along the things that my wonderful friends and mentors taught me.
P.S. To hear me and Carl tell the full story — where we were when this all happened, why we were pretty sure we didn’t like each other when we met for the first time, how Carl asked me out, what we did on our first date, how we knew each other was the one and more — check out this podcast episode!