Our Story, Updated #tbt #love #marriage #dating

The Beginning:

In January 2011, I accidentally got a second job working at LDS Family Services a few hours a week.  I really wasn’t trying, and it really was an accident, but that’s another story.  The point is that’s where I met Nathan’s cousin, Dan.  He kept me on my toes throughout a very hard year, with my mom having surgery on her spine and my father dying of cancer, and caring for my four year old niece that was staying at my house.   This hardest-year-of-my-life also brought the gift of time with my family, which was as healing as it was challenging.  I finally came to truly understand that nothing, nothing, nothing is more important than my family, and really began to appreciate them in new ways and realize how very much I love them.

By January 2012, this family-love-fest had prepared me to want to start my own family, and I finally began dating again for the first time since getting baptized.  That’s when I wrote The Art of Dating. Again.

However, these dates were disasters.  Serious disasters.  That’s when I wrote Dating: Skunks, Snakes, and Weasels Need Not Apply.

But I didn’t give up.  I decided needed to just do a better job of choosing dates.  I finally came to understand that I could use my own agency to create my own fairytale.  That’s when I wrote Finding Princes, Making Fairytales.

The Introduction:

One day at work, Dan told me about something funny his cousin (living in NYC) said on Facebook.  He had told me about his cousin before, and this cousin really did make me laugh, and so I looked at several other posts that delighted me.  I saw that he was posting via Twitter, which somehow had the illusion of being more public and less creepy than Facebook, so I replied to his post on Twitter.

Meanwhile, Nathan’s mother told him about me (via Dan).  Nathan knew there was no way to start a relationship from so far away, and so didn’t take her seriously.  Except that’s when I popped up on Twitter, the very next day.

We were shy, with simple messages back and forth before finally beginning to send actual emails.

This was our epistolary introduction, which was tender and sweet as soon as it finally began.

That’s when I wrote Message in a Bottle, maybe one of my most favorite blogs ever.  It might just be one of my favorites because by then I think I already knew that I loved him.

Also, we were very witty and clever, naturally.

By May, I knew I had caught something.  Or it had caught me.  I wasn’t sure what.  But it was real enough and serious enough that I had to revisit the Skeleton Woman story from Clarissa.

Our first real live phone date was on May 6th.  I was too scared to mess it up, so I didn’t tell anyone except my heart-sisters and my “fathers”, to whom I tell most everything even if just to hold myself accountable.  I was too embarrassed of my sappy self to write about it, and so only blogged these pictures.  We talked on the phone for three hours that day, three hours of awesome.

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But by May 16th, we had been giggly-googley enough that our friends were starting to figure out that we were drowning in sap and choking on cuteness.  So Nathan made us public to the masses on Facebook, warning me only seconds in advance before the onslaught began.  I returned the favor by writing a poem about a headless chicken named Mike (true story!), always the sure way to a guy’s heart.

The Engagement:

By June, our families and close friends knew things were getting serious.  But when the rumor mill started buzzing with everyone else, that’s when we knew it was time to really start sharing with those who were wanting so badly to celebrate with us.  That’s when I wrote A Thing Created is Loved Before It Exists.  We began to plan our dating spree of a visit to meet each other’s families.

On June 21st, we met at a park in Bartlesville, running toward each other in delight after being separated so long from so far away.  It was a moment that explained all the longing of mortality, and a moment sweeter than relief and comfort and joy combined.  It was a moment of deep peace, of knowing, of remembering.  We held hands, and we were happy.

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We spent the week together, a week I will never forget.  That’s when I wrote Remember, Remember, the story of our week together meeting our families and getting engaged, writing our story so that I always would remember, so that I would never forget, so that our story of our very own week would be written down, documented, passed down, shared with those who wanted to remember what it was like to fall in love and enjoy every minute of it.

We did meet and spend time with our families:

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(EDIT: That was one of the only pictures, besides our wedding pictures and one at Christmas, of all five of us before my mother was killed three months later.)

And after a week of long walks, family talks, ballroom dancing, tire changing, priesthood counsel, and many other adventures, he did propose and I did say yes!  He asked me in sign language, because he knows me and he loves me!

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We had our engagement photos taken in a local old bookstore:

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After much discussion with our schedules, our bosses, our priesthood leaders, and each other, we settled on four options for wedding dates.  We called the temple to check the days that were available, and checked with the Owasso building for reception availability. Then we took those options to our sign language interpreters to check their availability.  When it was all said and done, the best date for us happened to be October 13th.

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The Wedding:

Because we belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we were married in the temple in a private ceremony earlier in the day. Our closest temple is in Oklahoma City, so that is why we went that far just to be married. We think it is worth it, and it was very special to us!  However, our public reception in the evening was in Owasso, at a public chapel everyone was welcome to attend.

Because we are writers, and because symbolism is very important to me spiritually and intellectually and part of my background professionally, everything in our reception has a sacred meaning behind it. Some of those things we have chosen to share below (see the sections for “The Decorations”, “The Invitations”, “The Rings”, and “The Dress”).

If you are really interested and like nerdy stuff, skim through and enjoy!

If not, scroll down to check out the pictures.

More of the story below the wedding details, so keep scrolling.

THE TEMPLE

Why the temple? In the Family Proclamation, it states:

The divine plan of happiness enables family relationships to be perpetuated beyond the grave. Sacred ordinances and covenants available in holy temples make it possible for individuals to return to the presence of God and for families to be united eternally.

LDS beliefs include the idea that since we are eternal beings not limited to this mortal life only, we can be married for “time and all eternity” instead of just only for this life on earth like in a civil marriage. But for something to be established in heaven as well as on earth, it must be “sealed” by one with the power and authority to do so (see Matthew 16:19).

The sealing ceremony in the temple is a simple and solemn ceremony where Nathan and I will kneel at the altar and make covenants with God.

Here is a picture of a sealing room from the Kansas City temple, where my whole family got to tour before it opened (the picture is taken from the church news site that has more pictures if you want to see):

Nathan and I have had to work hard to prepare and qualify to be married in the temple because the temple is a sacred place, just as described and demonstrated in the Old Testament. Also, eternity is a big deal!

Some of the things we have had to do to prepare and qualify to be married in the temple include (see this article for more details):

  • actively developing our faith and belief in God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost, and doing our work to develop and improve those relationships;
  • understanding and applying the atonement the Savior, which is to know that we often fail at being who we were created to be and are weak in trying to become more than our past mistakes – but that the Savior bridges that gap for us, has paid the price for us, and has suffered for the consequences of our sins, and by Him we find both mercy and forgiveness. But it is also knowing that He also suffered and paid the price of the sin of others, and for the injustices against us, and so we are to forgive others just as we have been forgiven, and to love them with the same kind of grace we have been loved;
  • understanding and sharing our knowledge that the full Gospel plan has been restored with its authority and ordinances just like in the Old Testament and New Testament;
  • sustain (support, pray for, and help) the leaders of our church and understand that God uses prophets today just as He always has;
  • dressing modestly and remaining chaste until we are married (complete fidelity after marriage);
  • learning to love our families;
  • participating in groups and organizations that teach positive principles of God;
  • attending church and keeping the covenants we have made;
  • learning to be honest;
  • paying a full tithe;
  • not using any alcohol, coffee, tea, or tobacco;
  • wearing our temple garments;
  • asking church leaders for help with any serious sins and doing the work to overcome them; and
  • finding ourselves to be worthy and prepared to enter the temple – this is a big deal – we sign our own “temple recommend”, which is like a permission slip to enter the temple. It does not mean that we think we are perfect or are even “good” yet, but that we are learning the plan of Heavenly Father and feel His grace and love for us; and are empowered and enabled by the atonement of the Savior; and are corrected, guided, and instructed by the Holy Spirit.

Some people see these things as “legalistic” or rules that are too strict, but we know they are good and healthy boundaries that the Lord has set for us. Choosing to live within these boundaries teaches us how to make good choices, and our lives are better because of those good choices. It really does bring us happiness, and give us strength and guidance when the challenges of real life come our way. It gathers us as a family, and makes miracles happen!

And this is a miracle for us, that we have found each other and will be sealed together for time and all eternity!

And that is worth celebrating!

THE RECEPTION

Our first reception was a brunch in New York City.  It was an adventure in which a wizard and his dragon unexpectedly showed up to bless us!  While not very LDS-like, it made perfect sense in New York!

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Our local reception was in Owasso the evening after we were married in the morning, and we planned a very special celebration.  Because Nathan was in New York and I was here, and so much of our relationship has unfolded through our “epistolary introduction” (the first time he said that is when I knew I loved him!), our family and friends missed out on the dating experiences we normally would have shared. So we have written a little play that will share our story in a special way. Then some youth performed “I Love to See the Temple” in sign language, followed by an exchange of rings and our official presentation as a couple led by my “father” Donn Mason.

The celebration had already begun with the wedding showers! There were four showers: one in Bartlesville hosted by Nathan’s mother to introduce me to their friends and family; one hosted by TSHA (the local United Way non-profit agency serving the Deaf community of Oklahoma) for my friends; one in Broken Arrow hosted by Brookhollow and Cedar Ridge for church friends; and one in my ward in Owasso.

THE INVITATIONS

Our invitations were mailed, inviting friends to join us for our “story”:

In fact, it begins the story that will continue at the reception!

We even have an “about the authors” page, in case you only know me or only know him:

THE DECORATIONS

Since Nathan and I are both writers, our reception theme is “words”. We are using purple and silver, but words are the theme and main focus. Our decorations are simple and handmade, creating the most exciting DIY summer we have ever experienced! Instead of trying to turn the church gym into a foo-foo castle, we are letting the walls be the covers of the book and you simply enter our story. I don’t want to give away all the details, but the highlight has been all the help we have received making paper flowers (thank you!):

The purple in our wedding represents royalty, all of us being children of God, all of us striving to become holy – even if “holy” today is “better than yesterday”. God loves us so much, and does want us to feel loved, to experience peace, and to discover happiness.

The silver represents our unity, not only with each other as a couple, but all of us, as one people, no matter our diversity, backgrounds, or experiences. We are all equal, all of us being children of the same God. We are each unique, but all of us created “in His image”, which is to say after the pattern of our Heavenly Parents just like we look and act so much like our own parents. We are all different, but each of us has traits and characteristics that are given to us by God, holy like God, and with potential we cannot yet comprehend.

The flowers made from journaling paper represent our own work we must each do individually to maintain our relationship with God first and foremost, through prayer and scripture study and blessings and pondering and reflection and temple worship. There are some flowers that have a simple alphabet pattern, symbolic of the basics of communication and interaction upon which our relationship was built and which we must do the work to maintain. There are other flowers made out of postcard pattern and handwriting patterns that symbolize our relationship that has unfolded through words, which we both love, by letters we have exchanged from far away. There are some flowers with music in them. These are a shout-out to Nathan’s efforts at writing musicals, and enjoyment we share of music in general.

The small flowers and table toppers were made from the pages of two books:

The Red Tent, an historical novel written about one of the daughters of Abraham and her experiences growing up amongst her brothers (who became the twelve tribes). It is a marvelous recounting of ancient women, their understanding of God, Mother Earth, each other, their husbands, and their children. It is about the hard work of daily life, the experiences that give meaning to life (love, childbirth, marriage, death) and how it is the meaning that gives us the courage and strength to grieve, to face the hard things, to conquer challenges, and sometimes just keep our head above water.

Women Who Run With the Wolves, also seen in our wedding invitation bookmarks, is written by a Jungian psychoanalyst (the kind of therapy I studied). Jungian psychology is all about narrative, meaning the stories we tell as individuals and cultures, and how everything around us is both “temporal and spiritual” (see D&C 29:31). Each piece in the story, every room, every object, every person, every character, everything represents a piece of ourselves and has something to teach us literally and something to teach us spiritually. The literal symbol is only there to help us recognize (remember) the spiritual lesson (and do something about it). In this particular book, the author tells fairytales from all over the world, one for each chapter, and then explains its meaning. While I am not so lost in one particular branch of psychology to agree with everything (of that type of psychology or this author), the temporal/spiritual principle is a true one and part of what prepared me – “a line upon line” for me long before baptism – to choose redemption, gain scriptural understanding, and appreciate temple worship.

The punched out hearts are all from pages of my favorite childhood classics, read repeatedly for the first twenty years of my life and still repeated from time to time. Understanding this makes Emily World make a lot more sense. We cut these shapes out of Anne of Green Gables, The Secret Garden, Alice in Wonderland, and Little Women. I wanted to use poetry, especially Emily Dickinson, but the phrasing was so short that it didn’t make for very pretty flowers (ironically enough). My friends would not let me use any Plato or Aristotle, which I wanted, because they found it boring (despite my pleas that it was historic, ancient, and foundational), nor would they let me use any Bronte or Austin due them being the “trash novels” of their time despite classic status today. We had some pretty fun discussions deciding which texts to use, as well as the gut-wrenching drama of actually tearing out pages from books. They were carefully chosen, and in honor of how these words helped us to “become”. However, the sacred-est of texts, such as the Scriptures, the Discourses, the Wolves book, Little Prince, and others will be displayed rather than cut into flowers. We had to draw the line somewhere!

The pattern and paper flowers with letters in the middle represent family and friends, our loved ones that have poured their hearts and souls into raising us and caring for us well. It takes a village to raise an Emily, and a city to raise a Nathan, and an act of God to bring us together. We are grateful. Thank you.

IN MEMORY

My dad passed away a year ago, and we will have his picture with a “candle” to honor him specially.

The garter I will wear was made by Nathan’s aunt (Dan McClellan’s mom), who passed away two years ago. That’s really special. She sounds amazing, and I can’t wait to meet her (again) someday.

I will also be wearing a charm bracelet of my mother’s, which she wore during the time she met my dad. There are charms he gave her and other memories from their time of dating and getting married. Also super-uber-special.

THE RINGS

The ring story has been an adventure in itself.

Nathan proposed to me, without a ring, while we were filthy from changing a flat tire.

He then bought me a little tiny somersaulting monkey, though, out of the nearest quarter machine.

But there was no ring.

Later that night, we returned to the park where we had our first date, and he gave me a necklace with a small ring on it. This was symbolic, he said, because he knew I would be mad if he spent money (which was true). I loved it, and was perfectly content. I didn’t take it off until it wore out several months later. Sadness, but a lovely memory that kept me close to him during our weeks apart.

Then we walked around the lake to a bench on the far side where we first held hands and talked so long on our first date. Butterflies and dragonflies danced around us, the sun was setting, and it was very sweet and romantic. Then fireworks went off, and he pulled out another ring out of his pocket. This ring was an heirloom ring (white gold art deco) passed down from his family. It fit perfectly, and I loved it so much!

Nathan picked his ring to show symbols of us being tied together, which is actually a very native and Hispanic tradition where the wedding couple has a rope placed around them during the ceremony to “seal” their “ties”. There are many layers of meaning to this, and it was special that he found a ring to show just that:

For the wedding, my engagement ring sits inside a wedding band. This created a flower that matches my tiara (with the Star of David turned into flowers (“Ephraim blossoms as a rose”), picture below). It makes seven diamonds, which is symbolic of Creation with a capital C, as in the eternal plan that is accomplished even as it is in process (present progressive!). It also gives me the circle/square combination, a temple symbol that I love (the four corners of the earth meeting the celestial sphere). There are other layers, too, but they are personal and sacred for me. So yes! I love my ring!

THE DRESS

My veil is a long Jewish veil with lavender trim to match the birthstones (amethyst) in my tiara, all of it made by friends and given to me as a wedding gift.

Designed by Palestinian friends (converts to LDS), the dress is a Muslim style but embroidered and beaded with temple symbols of Garden of Eden vines and flowers. The flowers are made of a Star of David design turned into flowers (like in the tiara) with structured beading to symbolize celestial-ness. The dress is draped around the front to symbolize the apron and also the pioneers, representing our journey to the promised land. The beading also includes butterflies and dragonflies, a sweet touch commemorating the night Nathan proposed to me by the lake with the fireworks. All of it is very subtle and woven into the vines, classic of poetry written in Farsi or Hebrew. The dress is so amazing!

 

THE HONEYMOON

Because I was able to take a trip to New York for a reception there before the wedding, including getting to stay with Nathan’s bishop’s family (and so confirming he really was a legit decent guy!) and meet his amazing friends, we decided to stay within our careful budget and travel close to home.  I inherited a cabin on the lake between Springfield and Branson, and that seemed the perfect place for our writer’s retreat of a honeymoon.  Because we were already grownups with two households to merge, our gift registry was a creative online fundraiser that allowed people to sponsor different activities or meals for our getaway.  It was fall in the mountains on the lake, and so beautiful, and it was so perfect for us.

20121016-171037Little did we know that just a few months later, we would be sent to Israel, and get a second honeymoon quite unexpectedly!  What an experience that was!

Our courtship and marriage were absolute bliss, beyond fairytale perfect.  It really was.

But we both understood that it was being given to us as a gift, as a respite, as a time of gathering strength, as a bit of a celestial experience before getting to work.  We both sensed that hard times were to come, though we did not know specifics.  It all unfolded quickly, though.

We applied to be foster parents while still on our honeymoon, after feeling that prompting from the Lord.

Nathan had to go back to New York two weeks after we were married, and didn’t actually move to Oklahoma until Thankgiving, when we had our first miscarriage.

He had to fly back to New York again for work, and got caught in Hurricane Sandy.

He came home for Christmas, for good, and we had an amazing two weeks together culminating in doing my father’s temple work the first weekend of January.

My mother was killed the following week.

We had another miscarriage after that, and a third on Mother’s Day weekend.

Our first foster child arrived on his birthday in July, and we have had 26 kids come and go since then, in only a year’s time.

This year I got cancer for his birthday, and we are down to only two foster kids that are now becoming adoptive placements.

Our marriage has been just as fairytale as our courtship, though not as easy, as it has included all the heartbreak and grief and challenges required of a good adventure narrative.

We do not complain because we know that’s what makes our love real.

We are not sappy-happy because we are newlyweds or because life has been so good and amazing.

We are happy because we choose to care and serve each other before ourselves, because we know our love is worth doing the hard work to protect and nurture it, and because we know our love is eternal.

And it’s the eternal piece that promises a happy ending.

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About Emily

I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since 2009. I serve as a Chaplain, and work as a counselor. I got bilateral cochlear implants in 2010, but will always love sign language. I choose books over television, and organics over processed. Nothing is as close to flying as ballroom dancing - except maybe running, when in the solo mood. I would rather be outside than anywhere else, especially at the river riding my bike or kayaking. PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy, and currently doing a post-doc in Jewish Studies and an MDiv in Pastoral Counseling. The best thing about Emily World is that it's always an adventure, even if (not so) grammatically precise. The only thing better than writing is being married to a writer. Nathan Christensen and I were married in the Oklahoma City temple on 13 October 2012, and have since fostered more than eighty-five children. We have adopted the six who stayed, and are totally and completely and helplessly in love with our family. Nathan writes musical theater, including "Broadcast" (a musical history of the radio) and an adaption of Lois Lowry's "The Giver". He served his mission in South Korea, has taught song-writing in New York City public schools, and worked as a theater critic for a Tucson newspaper. This is not an official Web site of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Comments

Our Story, Updated #tbt #love #marriage #dating — 7 Comments

  1. So beautiful. I love your love story – and that it continues every day. I’m going to go kiss my husband now – thanks for the reminder of romance!

    • Kissing the husband is definitely one of my favorite ways to give a reminder of romance!

  2. Thank you so much for sharing your story. It is truly inspiring, as is your faith. I will pray for your complete healing.

  3. Pingback: Love: A Confessional and Timeline | Housewife Class