I was so excited to invite Shannon into our first little apartment for anniversary photos! She's photographed my art and products for various styled shoots over the last year, and I love the aesthetic she brings her to her work over at Sweet Caroline Photography. It was super fun to invite her into our home, introduce her to Dan, and let her capture us in our most natural environment - at home.
When people ask how the first year is going (went), I tell them that I am grateful that the greatest conflicts we've dealt with have been from external forces - people or circumstances around us, not between us. It's a huge blessing that I owe to the Lord and to the way he prepared Dan and me to meet each other at the perfect time. I'm really proud of our dating story, and I don't want to hide it! I want to share it because I know I have brothers and sisters out there in the throws of dating who might need some encouragement to keep pressing on for the best God has for them. That being said, here's the 3 most important things I've learned about dating during our first year of marriage. These are things that we look back on and say, I'm glad we did it that way.
1. Figuring out the most important things to your heart and your calling (some might call these deal makers) before you date is the greatest gift you'll ever give your partner. These 'things' are your heartbeat, the things that begin and complete you, your identity. They aren't what you do, they are who you are. If the person you're dating doesn't stand in agreement and isn't compatible to these things, it's going to be really hard to find purpose and alignment amidst conflict or joy. Dan and I both desired a covenant marriage, one that depended on growing together and building a legacy that withstood earthly woes. That meant knowing who we were at our cores, being able to articulate that to each other, and seeking to see that in each other instead of focusing things we were 'doing' that didn't represent our true identity. It has reframed and reshaped every conflict and triumph we've experienced together because we both feel free to point each other to our best and truest selves, even when it's hard and vulnerable.
2. Date the painting, not the brush strokes. When Dan and I first started dating, my preconceived notions about what I 'needed' and 'wanted' from someone almost got in the way of seeing the bigger picture. Thankfully, I was surrounded by solid people, and one of them said something that totally changed the way I saw Dan. He said, "All the things you're talking about are like brush strokes on a canvas. They are pieces of the picture of who Dan is. Eventually, all of these brush strokes (good and bad) will start to paint a whole picture. Once you start to see the whole picture, then you can decide how to move forward. You don't marry the brush strokes, you marry the masterpiece." THIS WAS (and is) SO GOOD. It is still the same today, and I am pretty confident it will be when we're celebrating our 50th anniversary. When we focus on the brush strokes, it's way too easy to miss the glory. Or , perhaps more dangerously, we think that one brushstroke (personality trait, charming quality, good behavior, etc.) is the glory, and we place all our worth in the relationship on the 'doing' not the being. (Been there.) If we focused daily on the 'doings' of life, Dan and I would fluctuate constantly in our marriage between disappointment and infatuation. When we focus on the glory of each other, we maintain a state of gratitude and commitment to the masterpiece in the making.
3. Have the important conversations early and often, and keep those two things mentioned above at the forefront of the conversation. I realize this is counterintuitive a little bit, because it's hard to keep someone's identity at the forefront of a conversation when you're still figuring out what it is, but I think the key here is that it's not just about the other person. You start by keeping YOUR identity and the painting of YOU at the forefront. That way, when alarms go off that the person you're spending time with and getting attached to may not be in alignment with who you know you are and are called to be, you move forward in that awareness. It doesn't always mean you immediately run for the hills (the painting takes time), but it does mean that you're able to gauge how and to what extent to guard your heart. Doing this also means that you'll be prepared to run for hills if it becomes necessary. As time goes on, the conversations become more and more about keeping the identity and painting of the other person in mind, and when you reach the point of marriage, your identity and callings become best friends. You each still keep them, you each pursue them, you don't lose your identity in the other person. Instead, it is magnified by the hard conversations because not only are you aiming for the best and most glorious version of you, but you have someone by your side who is aiming for the same thing, too.
Dan and I are moving to the 'burbs' next month; one thing we have found about who we are is that we are get in the car and be at Target or Whole Foods in 5 minutes with no traffic kind of people. We are excited for our next home and season of growing together, but I will be forever grateful for this photos that capture our relationship that has been solidified in this little home in D.C. I've added a few more favorites below! Thanks for reading, friends. xo, Katie