Wednesday, January 28, 2015

I'm not planning my wedding.

Confession: the post title is a bit of a stretch. What I mean to say is that I'm not afraid to not spend (my condolences on the double negative) every waking moment thinking about the wedding day and plans for this dress or that table decoration, who to invite, who not to invite, etc etc. And it certainly is a temptation to think that your life needs to revolve around wedding planning (thanks, frequent emails from The Knot, WeddingWire, etc etc)! For Pete's sake, we haven't even been engaged a full month, yet! (We will have been tomorrow, though.) Moreover, I want a marriage that lasts a lifetime, not a spectacular wedding that will only be one day. Plus, the way the world works is this:  things will inevitably go wrong. No matter what. End of story. Things will not always go 100% as planned (thanks, FOCUS Missions, for giving me a hard, fast lesson in that one!) so if I have all of my eggs in the "having a perfect wedding basket" I will certainly be disappointed without some level of detachment.

Shortly after Lee and I got engaged he brought up one of his fears, which also mirrored one of mine: that through this period of engagement we would quit growing in friendship and focus solely on our wedding. I for one am a sap for weddings and also am a girl who loves all things pretty, has a lot of time at work to daydream and has a great cohort of friends and family who are over the moon excited for us and want to help with wedding details in any way possible.

Even with all of these factors, I'm not planning my wedding. Well, actually, it's not just me. It's Lee and I, so it's we. And we are definitely planning our wedding. BUT we are not allowing the planning for a mere one day of our lives to consume us for the next 255 days (thanks for the countdown, wedding websites everywhere).

With that, we have decided to institute...

(...drum roll please...)

wedding-free date nights!

Okay, so that might be a slight over-reaction, but it really is pretty exciting--both the date nights, and the ability to reference one of my favorite movies.

Also, for me personally, I have attempted to institute wedding-free Wednesdays! This is when I make my best attempt* at not doing anything wedding-related on Wednesdays, and then offer the struggle for the kiddos that I'll see later that night in religious ed.

* I'm still human, and still excited about having my own wedding someday, after all! I can't expect perfection right away, but I'll keep striving.

Ever since we've lived in the same city, Lee and I have held fast to our weekly date nights. Each week we take turns planning the evening's events, and we even extend our curfew until 10:00 on those nights so that way it's extra special (getting old is rough, dontcha know...).  This wonderful schedule has allowed us to enjoy a plethora of activities that take minimal planning but that we might not do otherwise (think: read each other books at B&N, $5 movie Tuesdays, try fun new recipes or restaurants, carve pumpkins, scrapbook, etc).

I think that regular date nights are essential for couples--dating, engaged or married--and should be cherished and guarded each week, especially until the little ones come along and make life a little more joyfully chaotic. Also, when couples spend all of their time just "hanging out" and not actually doing anything, it can lead to not getting to know the person and all of their wonderful quirks, likes, and dislikes, but just feeding the emotional highs you get when you're close. It's a hard fact to face, but I do believe it's true. Snuggling up next to each other on the couch every night may seem like a great idea, but with any firm resolve to remain pure and chaste, that can really be dancing on the edge of the fire, if you know what I mean. That's why we keep a running list of "Things to do with the other" and when in need of an activity, we don't have the excuse that, "there's nothing to do!" Shoot, we've got a whole list right there on our handheld devices. And believe me, there are always things to do. Take this example from Olivia over at To the Heights. You don't need to live in a big city with lots of social options to keep you entertained; try something as simple as having a candlelit homemade dinner, or teaching someone your favorite game (in this case it's chess..and one of these days I WILL let you teach me, Lee, I promise).

Because both Lee and I cherish our weekly date nights, we have decided to guard them even from our own wedding planning, and let these nights be just about us and our growing friendship. Our relationships don't just stop growing when we get engaged or married, anyway. Plus, this is a pretty sweet deal, am I right? Sure, it's tempting to want to bring up the, "what about this idea?" or, "Have you thought about that?" But in all reality, we are starting to see that those ideas aren't going anywhere, and will be there to talk about the next day. We also have a nifty Google wedding spreadsheet with a "To-do" tab, so if we think of something to talk about, we can just add it on there and talk about it on some night other than our date night.

After a little reflection about why I think setting time aside to not do wedding planning is so important, I realized that in a sense, it is a lesson in trust. Trusting that everything will work out just fine--regardless of when this reservation is made or that decision is decided, we just need to trust that everything will work out exactly as it's supposed to. So far we have had zero road bumps in planning and choosing venues, so it's also pretty easy to trust right now. But in a real, tangible way, this is preparing us for marriage when we will need to trust in God to take care of all of the unknowns (our family, our jobs, our finances, etc.) when we can't control everything. And ultimately, I don't want to be the one in control anyway. That's His job, not ours.

Here are a few pictures I found from some of our fun date nights:
Lee made me a fancy birthday dinner of salmon and asparagus for this date night.
Carving pumpkins before Halloween!
We each picked out a children's book that we liked and read it to one another.
(Lee picked the book above, I chose Walter the Farting Dog. So romantic.)
Making our first cookie cutouts together for Christmas! 
Grilling at the State Park by the
lake for date night.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Congratulations and good luck.

Lee and I have the privilege of attending the 7 am Mass at our local parish most days of the week. There is no Mass on Mondays or every other Wednesday, so on those days I always feel a little off. But man am I thankful for the days that start on such a positive note! Also, the other 15-20 people there are retired, so they always enjoy seeing us and remember to thank us for helping pay their social security. It's quite hilarious.

This morning was a little special though. Our priest, I'll refer to him as "padre" for now, has been gone since we've been back from the holiday break. We were pretty excited to tell him as soon as we got back, and hoped for a special blessing on our engagement, but he was gone all of last week! 

So this morning before Mass Lee and I stopped into padre's office to let him know the good news and ask for his blessing during Mass. Man was he excited for us! He gave Lee the typical, "what were you waiting for?!" line, but Lee has a lot of grace with that and always just smiles and laughs. He's so funny, and I love seeing how he reacts when people say things like that. He never uses more words than necessary, but just the right amount.

At Mass last week a few people saw the ring and congratulated us, but apparently the word didn't spread (which is quite comical because the group is pretty small, and we have daily Mass in a small library downstairs in our church). As soon as padre mentioned the "exciting news of Lee asking me a question and now I have a ring on my finger," everybody clapped! They were so happy, it was cute. I felt like I had five sets of grandparents in the room by the way they were all so delighted.

Padre then told us a quick story: "You know," he said, "when a couple gets engaged it's customary to only congratulate one of them--the groom--because he wins the girl. To the girl, rather than congratulations, you should say 'good luck' because now she has to deal with the guy!" And then all of the men in the room erupted into an uproar of laughter. Lee blushed, and I smiled. Because in my opinion, I'd have to say that while we both deserve the "congratulations," we also both need the "good luck," and I'd wager Lee more than I! While girls are exciting and beautiful, they are also difficult, way complicated, and experience a menstrual cycle. This may be something that men just never fully understand. And that is okay (until the Packers lose a shot at the Super Bowl the week my period starts...but that's hypothetical of course). 

Friday, January 16, 2015

Answering another call: we're engaged!

Perhaps many of you dear readers have already heard the chronicles of Lee and I throughout our dating relationship. Perhaps you know both of us personally. Or just one of us. Or neither of us (which might be a little creepy, but hey, I'm the one putting selections from my life on the internet for all to see!). Regardless of how you know (or don't know) me us, I just want to sing from the rooftops and tell the whole world about Lee and I's story.

Am I one of those crazy, in-love girls who is totally smitten and sees rainbows and butterflies everyday? Yes. And shamelessly so. In fact, the emoji with the heart eyes frequents my "recently used" every day, if that says anything. Emotions provide the raw material for love, at least that's what Saint JPII says, and you know what? I agree with him. Lee and I are reading a book he wrote before he became pope called Love and Responsibility and boy am I learning a lot about what it really means to love another and selflessly desire their good. And wow do I have a long way to go.

Anyway, I digress. I seriously just want to proclaim to you all of the events, growing moments, and ways that I've learned as much as I have from our relationship thus far that has shaped me into the woman I am today. It's amazing to me how quickly life can change, and in such big ways!

Why am I writing this post again? Oh yeah, to tell you about the proposal!

Lee and I were in St. Cloud just after Christmas to spend time with his family. We had just gotten back from spending the weekend in Fargo (going to a wedding, no less!) and were feeling pretty cooped up so Lee suggested a walk at Quarry Park. This enchanting park filled with old granite quarries and miles of trails happens to be the site of a certain couple's first handhold. Talk about precious moments. And that "certain couple" happens to be us, go figure.

We were walking along, enjoying one another's company on a frigid -1 degree day. It was SO cold! If it weren't for the wool socks I was wearing and the scarf wrapped around my entire face I think I would've become the less-loving popsicle version of myself--and she's never too fun to be around. But as we walked hand in hand I just felt very happy to be with him, and be outside, despite the cold.

We eventually made our way up to a little embankment overlooking this spot:

and just stopped to admire nature's beauty for a few moments (which, admittedly, we do often while walking in the woods and at other beautiful places). As we were standing there Lee turned to me and said, "Kelsey, I wrote you something that I'd like to read to you." He proceeded to pull a hand-written letter out of his coat pocket, look me in the eyes, and start telling me exactly how he feels and what he knows God is calling him to. It truly was one of the most beautiful letters I have ever read (well, heard, and then read afterwards many, many times), and was written with me in mind, which was the biggest "swoon factor" in the whole deal, if you ask me.

As the letter wrapped up, with Lee consistently looking over to me while he was reading making sure I was still looking back at him, he reached into his coat pocket, holding my gaze all the while (with, yes, the Lee Kersting stare), pulled out a box, got down on one knee and asked me to marry him right there!

I tried to come back down to planet earth and say something, really any form of "yes" would do. I think I mumbled an, "uh-huh" and proceeded to stare at him, in awe that this man really wants to spend the rest of his life with me. In my opinion, I'm definitely getting the better end of the deal here!

Shortly after it all happened, we shared our first kiss. (Awwwww) It really was a perfect moment. After hugging for a few minutes Lee finally looked at me, still holding the ring and said, "So, you wanna put it on?" I hadn't even thought about it as I literally couldn't believe that we were going to spend the rest of our lives together!

He handed me the ring, and I put it on. Other than being a size too big, it was perfect. I felt extremely loved in that moment, but that is an understatement. After I put it on he told me that "the reason there is a single diamond is because I want you to know that you are the sole object of my affection."

....tissue break.... (For you, not me. I've told this story already!)

He also told me that he thought that this ring could also be my new purity ring, and I could take the old one off (which I was planning to give to him anyway). It's funny how strangely difficult it was to part with the old ring that my aunt Colleen gave me as a young teen! I've been wearing it for about a decade and rarely, if ever, took it off. I think I'm adjusting to the new ring just fine though.

We had talked about engagement one time a couple months earlier, and Lee asked if I'd like to help pick out the ring or if I wanted him to do it. I opted to have him be the one to pick it out and am so glad that I did. Every time I look at it I love it a little more, and I think mostly because of what it stands for. Here are some pictures of the ring, the first one being after it was re-sized:

So we eventually kept walking, and then went to the top of an observation look out and took our first official "engaged pictures:

Do we look cold or what??

After that we continued walking for a brief while and then decided that it was just really cold, so we started making our way back to the car. We then went over to St. Mary's Cathedral, the Cathedral of the St. Cloud diocese. We prayed there for a while, and spent some time visiting our patron saint's shrine, St. Cloud himself (yes, he's a real person). We then ventured downstairs to a beautiful statue of our lady and lit a candle there, especially since Our Lady is such a big part of our relationship (Lee captured the moment):

The entire time at the Cathedral was filled with much consolation and peace for the both of us, which we afterwards discussed and decided was a very good sign. As we were walking out Lee looked at me and said, "well, what do you want to do now?"

We proceeded to continue spending time together through activities such as going to the mall, buying flannel sheets and looking at picture Porsche books. We finished off a perfect day of newly-engaged bliss (all before telling a soul!) by having supper at Panera and I practiced flashing the bling (Lee thought it was funny):

After dinner we finally decided it was time to head back and tell our families, so we surprised both his parents and my own (even though he had asked mine a couple weeks earlier for permission). Both families are so excited and can't wait to have a new daughter and a new son (relatively speaking, of course).

Last but certainly not least, we have selected the date on which we will wed! October 10th, 2015 we will exchange marriage vows and enter into the "sacrament of sacraments." This time of preparation has already helped us grow and challenged us in a variety of ways, and gosh I just cannot wait to become the Mrs. to this Mr.