Finally Mrs. Iwanski.

Hey friends!

It’s exactly two months after the wedding and I thought I would write a little about The Best Day Ever while it’s still fresh in my mind. (just fyi: this is about to be very sappy and happy and honeymoonie)

Let me just start by saying… May 23rd was absolutely the very best day of my life. I know that’s cliche to say, but it is 100% true. There isn’t a single darn thing I would change about our wedding day; everything was above and beyond perfect in every way. I am an incredibly blessed new wifey. : )

Honestly, I can’t even really choose my most favorite moment. There are too many to count. But just so you get an idea, here are some of my personal wedding day highlights…

#1. Praying with two of my cousins (Jamie, one of my bridesmaids, and Nicole, her sister) as well as my Maid of Honor/little sissy Stephanie right before we all lined up to walk down the aisle. Growing up, the four of us have been inseparable (even though we were miles and miles apart) and we’ve learned and grown together in Christ through the years. Those girls are three of my very best friends in the world and spending the moments before the ceremony together, calling out to our Savior, totally calmed my heart and made me focus on the importance of what I was about to do. It was truly so precious and genuine and I’ll always be thankful for those moments in prayer.

#2. Opening Alex’s wedding gift to me. For months before the wedding, I had been worrying that I wouldn’t be able to find the right jewelry to wear on our day. I knew I wanted the necklace to be pearls (I’m old school like that) but they had to be just the right size and length. Eventually I found some costume pearls that looked real enough and figured they would have to do. Then, just a few hours before I walked down the aisle, Alex sent a plain wrapped box over to the bridal cottage where I was getting ready. Inside was the most beautiful and perfect pearl necklace I have ever seen. I was so surprised and amazed (although I shouldn’t have been — Alex is always sweet like that). I put them on right away and wore them the whole night. I’m so grateful that we have that special memory, and our first family “heirloom” type thing. Maybe if we have a daughter someday, she’ll want to wear those pearls on her wedding day too.

#3. Seeing Alex for the first time as I walked down the aisle with my dad. For those of you who weren’t there or didn’t catch Alex’s face, it was absolutely priceless. Pure emotion like I’ve never seen in him before, and maybe never will again. In all the years I’ve known Alex, I’ve seen him cry maybe once or twice. But that moment was by far and away the most beautiful. My dad and I had been keeping it together real nicely right up until that point, but as we rounded that corner and saw him finally see us…we knew it was all over. My dad actually whispered “Oh shoot” as we made our way toward him because we were both trying really hard not to cry. Thankfully, we made it down the aisle without any tears (can’t say the same about my poor husband haha) and I actually held myself together very well….right up until I started saying my vows. Then I just lost it hahah.

#4. Watching Alex’s face as we said those very tearful vows. I can still clearly see his eyes in my memory — intense but somehow gentle, locked on mine and filled with adoration. It was the kind of gaze that every girl dreams her husband will have on their wedding day.

#5. Dancing with my dad at the reception. Originally we had planned to dance to “My Girl” by The Temptations, but as we were practicing our dance we felt like it was missing something. So my dad got one of his friends to mix two songs together — the first verse of “Butterfly Kisses” and the whole song of “My Girl.” It was the perfect combination of heartfelt and fun (which I definitely needed because I was bawling my eyes out during every word of “Butterfly Kisses”). We must’ve practiced that dance a hundred times in our living room at home and when we actually got to do it at the reception, it was a big hit with everyone. : ) Plus, we worked in a little surprise at the end…during the bridge, we ran up to my mom and Alex and pulled them onto the dance floor for the final verse. Kind of to signify my dad giving me to my new husband/dance partner for life. Even though I’ll always take any chance I can get to dance with my daddy again.

#6. Dancing with my new husband at the reception. : ) Choosing our wedding song was actually the first decision we made for the wedding, right after we got engaged. “I Won’t Give Up” by Jason Mraz has been one of our favorites since the first moment we heard it, which happened to be when we were hanging out one night before we were even dating. Having it be our wedding song just seemed to fit. And when the moment finally came to dance to it as husband and wife, we couldn’t have been happier. We sang the entire song to each other while we danced. I have no idea if people were listening or watching or anything at all. In that moment, he was the only thing in my world.

#7. My sister Stephanie’s Maid of Honor speech. All I can say is that it was absolutely beautiful. Funny and honest and so very sweet. No matter where I go in life, she will always be my first and only best friend. Plus, she got the rest of the bridesmaids to come up and do a rap they wrote in our honor at the end hahaha. Hilarious.

#8. Watching my Aunt Nancy dance around at the reception. Literally one of the funniest things of my life. That lady held nothing back – she even won a dance competition! Plus, she really doesn’t give a crap what other people think lol. The perfect combination. At one point, she had napkins flying everywhere. I don’t even know what was happening! I can’t wait to see those pictures.

….ah there are so many more memories I could post. But those are my very top favorites. Even now as I’m remembering it all, I’m filled with such complete happiness. Everything was perfect, from the decorations to the cake to the music. And ps, our DJ was awesome. He seriously made our entire reception. My advice to future brides-to-be is DEFINITELY spend some time and money choosing the right DJ. The reception was a blast, largely because of him.

And now here we are, two months later. I love absolutely everything about married life and getting to (finally) be Alex’s wife, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t miss being a bride, just a little bit. 😉 It’s true what they say about your wedding day flying by. One minute I was getting my hair curled by my sister and the next I was sitting in a horse-drawn carriage (yes, my wedding day was a legit fairytale) with my dad, listening to the music my bridesmaids were walking down the aisle to, waiting for our cue to go. Then I blinked and Alex and I were running past our friends and family as they threw lavender in the air, waving goodbye while we climbed into our car and headed off. I heard by dad say, “Take care of my baby” and just like that, our day was over.

Sometimes I wish we had gotten more time to look more closely at all the little details of the wedding, to say hi to everyone who came to celebrate with us, to eat more than six bites of our dinner haha. It all went by so quickly. I wish it was possible to relive your favorite day ever. But, I remember the important stuff. And I’m so incredibly thankful that our wedding had so many special details that I didn’t want to miss.

The whole year and a half we spent engaged seemed like an eternity, but it was such a special time for us that I wouldn’t trade for the world. And the moment we said “I do” made every stressful, anxious, impatient minute of our engagement all worth it. Now I’m finally his wife. : )

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One last thing… We wanted to give a HUGE thank you to the people who sacrificed their time and money to make our wedding day unforgettable. (we’re talking to you, both sets of parents and all our out-of-state family and friends). We seriously could not have done it without all of you. We love you very much and appreciate you more than you know. From the bottom of our hearts, THANK YOU. ❤

xoxo Mrs. Iwanski

 

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Engagement pictures.

Happy Friday, all! (: I hope your week has been much less hectic than mine. With grad school right around the corner, I’ve been up to my eyeballs in emails and interviews and stress galore! Not to mention we finally got our invitations in the mail the other day and lo and behold……. a typo.

Oh boy. Back to square one.

Luckily, the company has been gracious enough to refund us, but we still have to wait a few more weeks for the new invites to come in. Eek! I just want to get this all done!

I decided to try and add a little sunshine to my week and start the weekend off right by posting some of my favorites from our engagement shoot with my very talented best friend/photographer, Julianna Roberts (follow her on Instagram, people, she’s awesome. @julietheroberts). We spent about 4 hours a few months ago running around in Tempe/Gilbert, getting kicked out of orchards, and generally acting like a bunch of crazies while taking these pictures. And they came out PERFECTLY. I couldn’t be happier! They are a beautiful visual representation of my relationship with Alex…the good, the weird, and the crazy.

I hope you enjoy. (:

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xoxo.

The first man I ever loved.

“Jessica!” I hear his voice echo through the empty church. “Come on, it’s time to go!”

I peek my head over the smooth edge of the wooden pew and see my dad heading towards me. Running my hand along the back of the pew as I move easily through the tiny aisle, I skip over to meet him. His big, warm hand envelopes my small one and together we walk through the doors.

This is my first memory of my dad. I was probably two or three years old at the time, and I don’t have a clue as to the context of the memory. I couldn’t tell you which church it was, what city we were in, or even why we were there. But I can still remember the feeling, even after all these years, of hearing my dad’s comforting voice and not really caring about anything else. It didn’t matter what came next – lunch, maybe, or home to see my mom; we were together so I was happy.

1011857_10152246234597474_1089348598_nFast-forward a few years. I’m seven or eight now, watching my dad as his fingers skip quickly and effortlessly across the ivory keys of our old piano. The melodies mix beautifully with his voice and the sound floats through the high arches of our piano room, amplified by the wood floors below. He sings words he wrote to the tunes he created and I watch with fascination as I try to sing along. My dad never had a lesson in his life, I think. Will I be able to create music this good when I grow up? His eyes catch mine and he beckons me to come sit with him. I climb up on the thin cushion of the piano seat and together we sing his songs… “I believe that God made the ocean, then He came and was baptized in the sea. I believe that God made the mountains and led up there to be tempted by the enemy. I believe that God made the forest, then was crucified upon a tree. And I believe that God will return, in Jesus Christ, to glorify His redeemed.”

1530421_10152246234642474_1790361373_nNow I’m ten or eleven. New York is experiencing some of the worst thunderstorms I’ve ever seen in my short life. My sister and I lay shivering in our shared room, hiding under the covers as lightening slices through the night sky and thunder cracks deafeningly overhead. “Do you think the roof is going to crash in on us?” I ask my sister, whose bed is pushed against mine. The door slides open a bit, shedding a sliver of light to break up some of the darkness. I see my dad’s silhouette tiptoeing in and breathe a sigh of relief as he climbs to the middle of our beds and lies between my sister and I, putting a big strong arm around each of us. He starts to sing “I Love You, Lord” and a sense of calm relaxes my body. My eyes droop shut and I fall asleep against his chest, listening to the echoing vibrations of his softly singing voice.

My dad is the very best person I know. His heart for Jesus and for people in general is truly unmatched by anyone I’ve ever met. He was the first one to share the Gospel with me, and he is the one who has helped me and guided me in my personal walk with Jesus all these years. I can remember dancing around the living room with him, making up songs to help me remember Bible verses…and then reciting those same verses in my head whenever I was feeling lost. I can remember running through mock evangelism conversations with him while we sat side by side on the front step of our house in New York…and then using some of the ideas I learned from him to talk to my friends about Jesus. I can remember family Bible studies, reading through missionary books together, and one-on-one prayer times. My childhood was more blessed than I ever could have realized at the time, and my dad is most of the reason why.

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Growing up, we never had the biggest house on the block, we never had the fanciest new car, and my parents were always trying to find creative ways to save money (e.g., getting Internet through the Comsewogue Library?? I still don’t know how that worked). But we had more than most and more than we needed. My dad gave up his dreams of stardom and musical fame to make a living for my mom, my sisters, and me. I’ve watched him graciously suffer through jobs he hated, awful bosses, and terribly long hours – all with a smile on his face and the love of Jesus in his heart. He has sacrificed everything – so much more than I deserve – to give me the beautiful life I’ve had so far.

I have very few memories of my dad where he isn’t smiling or laughing or making up very silly songs or playing funny1005559_10151772575327474_1475014998_n jokes on people. He instantly becomes friends with everyone he meets and genuinely invests in their thoughts, ideas, and even worries. When you talk to my dad, he honestly makes you feel as though you are the single most important thing in the world to him. Like absolutely nothing but your immediate conversation is of any significance. Like maybe whatever you’ve been struggling with isn’t so hard, after all. Maybe, because he believes you can take on anything, you should believe that you can too. And if it doesn’t work out? That’s okay. God has a better plan for you, anyway.

He has a way seeing through people’s facades, knowing what they need, and bringing Jesus’ pure light into even the evilest darkness. There have been countless times where I thought I was putting on a good show and had everyone fooled by my fake smiles and empty laughter. And maybe I really did have most people fooled, but not my dad. He would just march straight into my room and sit with me while I cried, helping me fix my broken heart and reminding me again to fall on my Savior.

Sometimes, late at night when everyone else is asleep, I walk down the silent hallway to fill my glass with water, and through the cracked back door I see my dad wrapped in his soft brown blanket, looking up in wonder at the stars that dot the sweeping Arizona night sky. I never know what he’s thinking and I never want to intrude and ask. But I imagine that maybe he’s thinking about Abraham from the Bible as he gazes up at the same stars and prays to the same loving Savior. I bet sometimes he’s praying for me, because that is just how he is.

Today on your birthday, Daddy…I just wanted to say thank you. Thank you for everything you are and everything you’ve been for me. I’m sure I don’t even realize all that you’ve done for me yet, but the older I get the more immeasurably thankful I become for every bit of what you’ve given me. Thank you for your advice, your wisdom, your jokes, your honesty, your sacrifices, and your love. You are one of the greatest blessings I’ll ever have and I couldn’t be more grateful to God for letting me be your daughter. This letter to you doesn’t come close to saying everything in my heart, but I hope it shows you just a little bit of how much you mean to me. No matter where I go or who I’m married to, you will always be the first man I ever loved.

I love you more than words, Daddy…and I’ll always be thankful that you loved me first, too. Happy birthday. ❤

Love always,

Jessica Joy (I’m a girl, not a boy)

P.S. Roses are red, violets are blue, sugar is sweet, and you are my dad. They call me The Rhymer. I make good rhymes.

my dad, dressed in his best to impress his neighborhood crush.

my dad, dressed in his best to impress his neighborhood crush. 😉

Alex guest stars.

Hello everyone! This morning I’m so excited to post this very special addition to my blog. The wonderfully talented and handsome Alex Iwanski (aka my incredible fiance) is guest starring as our surprise writer. : ) I’m so happy that he agreed to write this and, as always, I’m impressed by everything he had to say. I hope you all enjoy this as much as I did! : )

 

I don’t like people. It doesn’t take a genius to recognize that about me. Not to say I’m not polite or anything like that, but I’ve never placed a lot of trust in people, and I tend to naturally lean on the pessimistic side on my expectations of others. I don’t like talking to people that I don’t know. I don’t like sharing my feelings, and I definitely don’t like affection. Obviously this isn’t my best trait, and God has a lot of work to do on me, but for the sake of what I am writing and transparency, it is what it is for now.

“Why is that relevant?” you may ask. What on earth does that have to do with the lovely Jessica Joy Muth? Well, it’s very relevant, and has everything to do with Jessica Joy Muth if you’ll just let me explain why. Geez…

It was over 2 and half years ago that I first saw Jessica. You hear and see in movies and everywhere else in this wimpy love sick culture of ours that when you meet the right person you’ll just know, or it’ll be love at first sight. Well, I’m no expert, but that’s all a load of crap. If you’re falling in love based on love at first sight, then chances are good that you’re about to dive right into a deep, dark, cesspool of confusion and heartbreak, or (more likely) you’re  shallow (at least you were when you met them), but I digress…

To put it plainly, when I first saw Jessica in church that day, there weren’t sparks flying, there wasn’t some cataclysmic feeling that the universe had finally come together, and there wasn’t love at first sight. The real feeling I got was curiosity, really. There was a very pretty girl, and a shy, curious boy who didn’t like to talk to people (let alone a girl). But curiosity wasn’t enough to make me do anything. Curiosity doesn’t motivate an army, or cause a revolution. Curiosity, in this case, just made me pay attention. I gradually tried to feed my curiosity more and more, and I found myself just wanting to get to know her. And it should be known that I’m not the type of guy who, when he says “get to know” means date. I legitimately wanted to get to know girls. But with my… let’s just say “mediocre” introduction skills, it could have been anywhere from 4 weeks to 2 months before I ever said a word to her, I don’t really recall. But when the time came… it was nothing short of brilliance… (Warning, I’m also very sarcastic). Through a very grueling and drawn out planning process, I came up with the following message to send over Facebook:

“Hey Jessica! : ) This is random but can I get your number? I was gonna ask today but you weren’t at church. I wanted to find out how that polytechnic bus to ASU works.”

Surely this is written in the player’s handbook somewhere, but whether out of sincerity, curiosity, or pity for the clearly mentally challenged boy who was asking how a bus system works, she responded. I don’t think I realized the track that I had just been set on by sending that message, but I know now that it may have been the best decision I ever made to push myself out of my very small comfort zone and say something to her, no matter how lame it may have been.

That’s really all it took though. That’s the only moment in the entire time of knowing Jessica that I honestly felt awkward or weird, and it wasn’t even in response to anything that she did or said, it was all my own insecurity. The next 6 months or so were almost entirely summed up in one word: Friendship. If anyone knows me and Jessica’s story, it was always founded on friendship and God. We were both very against casual dating and the ridiculous idea that you have to push through some bad ones to get a good one type of worldly idea, and most importantly, we were both Christians who were learning and growing in Christ and seeking to establish any relationship, whether personal or not, on the only foundation that we could.

It really wasn’t long at all before I grew to like her. I’d never felt more comfortable with anyone, and I couldn’t believe how easy everything was with her. We were both introverts but somehow couldn’t shut up around each other, and there wasn’t anyone who I wanted to spend my time with more. She had one of the coolest families I’d ever met, with a Godly father, who I will always consider to be one of my greatest mentors, an amazing mother who has more patience and understanding then I ever thought was possible, and two sisters who I ridicule and make fun of mercilessly to overshadow the fact that I secretly love and care about them more than they know.

But this wasn’t without its trials, to say the least. Once I realized I liked Jessica, it was a long road of patience and leaning on God for the unknown. We had both come out of bad situations, Jessica suffering the most recent of them, putting a lot of uncertainty and baggage on the other person that we did not want to acknowledge or have to take. I was overwhelmed with what I was feeling, but I didn’t want it to get in the way of anything or make me do anything stupid. I can remember going back to my tiny little apartment and sitting in my room just praying to God to help me know what to do. I didn’t want to rush into anything, and I didn’t want to get hurt either, but before I could do anything I was already too deep.

I never realized why they call it falling in love until this time in my life. Why isn’t it crawling? Why isn’t it some calm, slow process with an unlimited amount of time to figure out what you’re doing? It’s because falling in love isn’t pretty or fluffy or anything that we’ve been injected to believe it is. Love is one of the most intense and difficult things that we could ask for, and I think the best way to demonstrate this is through the gospel.

The love of God is so invading and powerful that it can do anything. It can take absolutely wretched, murderous people and in an instant plunge them so deeply into His embrace that “neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39) In an instant God takes all of our fallen imperfection and sweeps us into the penetrating fires of love that can turn our rebellious hearts of stone into obedient hearts of flesh. Completely unknown and un-expectant to us we look around to notice the amazing grace and love that now consumes us. We see the greatest act of love that any man could ever imagine as the Son of God is violently murdered and battered for our wretched sin, and takes upon himself the righteous and justified wrath of God that should have been delivered to us while we graciously receive a full pardon and are clothed in the righteousness of God.

Now I’m not the most poetic person, but that’s pretty violent for love. There’s not a lot of happiness in the beginning of that love story, and I don’t think the hallmark channel could sell a story line where the guy is tortured and killed to save the girl and ultimately gets abandoned by her as it is all happening. But fortunately it all ends with the Son of God being given the authority and rule that he always deserved well before we ever came around and screwed everything up in the first place.

But me and Jessica’s relationship was only the smallest of reflections of this love. Through everything leading up to us dating, and eventually getting engaged and where we are now, the transformation and molding of God to grow both of us has been nothing short of miraculous. We were two completely broken and uncommitted people who were still working out our own walks with Christ and determining how to best serve Him. But through all the struggles, pain, and uncertainty, and in spite of all of our opposition along the way, God lead us both to what we can both agree is the greatest and most glorifying relationship of our lives. In each other, we have found the most gracious gift of God to grow and sanctify us both through any struggle, trial, or pain, and at the same time the greatest support and friend to share every bit of joy along the way with.

There’s plenty more to be said about our story, but what I really hope to display is threefold. First, the unexpected ways in which God works to bring people together. People now cloak this as “fate” which it is, but they attempt to recognize this destiny outside of the personage and sovereign rule of God. I give all the credit that can be given in the world to my heavenly father for giving to me the most cherished person I will ever have on this earth in my beautiful fiancé.

Secondly, and sort of hand in hand with the last point, is the complete need of submission to God in order to truly be happy or to experience anything of true joy in this life. I would never have seen Jessica as the beautiful gift of God that she is unless I had submitted myself to recognize that God was the only true well of happiness that I could ever hope to know. Everything outside of that, despite any temporal satisfactions, will only end up disappointing and running dry. Before I could ever even begin to love Jessica the way that I needed to, I needed to recognize that she wasn’t going to be my source of happiness. She wasn’t going to solve all my problems or fulfill all my needs. Those are shoes that only God can fulfill, and in turn she knows that she doesn’t have to feel the pressure of always needing to be perfect. We are both completely dependent upon and grounded in the belief that the only true joy worth achieving or searching for is the joy found in what has been given by the Father, accomplished in the Son, and learned through the work of the Holy Spirit. (That’s a trinity reference for those who don’t know.)

Lastly, I want to leave people with the understanding of the absolute bankruptcy and misuse of love as it has been defined by our world, apart from the only true love of God displayed in its purest form through Christ’s death for sinners. There is no greater example of true love. Sacrifice of everything for the people that rejected Him, and welcoming them into His presence forever. This is ultimately what the picture of me and Jessica is supposed to be. Love in its purest, most genuine form. And sure it will fall short from both sides over and over again in our marriage, but we know what the staple is. We know what we should look like, and every time we recognize that we don’t display that, we will be left with no other option then to run back into the loving arms which brought us together in the first place and who is able to display what we failed.

So back to my original question: Why is it relevant?

I was once asked by a couple of coworkers why I wanted to marry Jessica, and after giving it a few seconds, I confidently said, “Because she’s the only person that I can truly say I know how to love correctly.” I didn’t even realize I had said it until a few months later when they reminded me, but I think it was the right answer. I can truly see myself loving nobody else as purely and honestly as I love Jessica. This will come with the recognition that I won’t always display that, as I mentioned before, but when I read “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,” I can honestly say I would give up everything for my future wife for her good. Whether it was giving what time I had to make sure she was cared for, or if it was calling her out for a sin that she was in, or if it was showing the affection that I so often hate to show anyone else, or sacrificing my pride and bad outlook to make her feel better and help out, or anything else you could imagine I would need to do, I know that I can and will make the sacrifices that I have to make in order to see her experience the true happiness of God’s love.

So why’s it relevant that I’m a screwed up pessimist, with no affection, that’s easily annoyed, very opinionated, and would rather kick dirt then talk to someone new? Because Jessica Muth is the tool that God is using to change all of that.

Soli Deo Gloria

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Marry your best friend.

I’ve heard this advice countless times throughout my pre-dating years. My parents were (and still are) the best model of this kind of marriage that I have ever seen. Growing up, I can remember watching them laugh and joke and act silly together all the time. Their love for each other and for Jesus has anchored their marriage and kept them strong through some pretty difficult circumstances. I’ve honestly never seen a couple more in love. But besides loving each other, my parents also like each other, which I’ve come to realize is just as important as love.

148901_10151447546042474_1373965622_nWith Biblical love, you have to make the choice daily to care for the other person  and die to yourself in order to live for them. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely believe that a successful marriage requires that kind of love. But I also think that the best marriages involve a friendship, too. When you like someone, it isn’t so much about unconditional devotion; it’s more about simply having an honest appreciation for the other person…their sense of humor, their likes and dislikes, their ideas, their goals. Beyond the love, romance, and attraction, you truly just like who they are and enjoy being around them.

I’ve always looked up to my parents and I’ve always wanted to find what they have. But until I met Alex, I still didn’t fully understand what falling in love with your best friend really means. Sure, I knew what it meant in theory, but how does it feel? What does it look like in the relationship?

When I was younger, I was actually a little bit scared of getting married. I kind of pictured my husband as this tallish man in a suit, standing at the end of the aisle, waiting for me to walk down and marry him. Now that I think about it, that’s a pretty terrifying image haha. No wonder I was scared. I couldn’t picture my husband so I couldn’t picture my marriage and I was always afraid of marrying someone who didn’t really know me. But how could I picture it? Trying to imagine what love is like before you’ve ever dated someone is like trying to imagine standing at the edge of the ocean, looking out over that huge expanse of sea and sky, without ever having gone to the beach. Maybe you’ve seen pictures of it and maybe you know some people who have been there, but it doesn’t seem to make sense until you’ve experienced it yourself.

Now that I know Alex, though, I know exactly what love is like. And I know the incredible blessing it is to be in love with your best friend. For those of you who are wondering, this is what it’s like…

558994_10151369701692474_1883778561_n 1. You laugh a lot. That’s probably number one.

2. You get to tease each other and make fun of each other about 99% of the time. Plus you don’t have to worry that he’ll take it personally because he’s busy making fun of you right back.

3. You have fun, every single day, no matter what you’re doing, no matter who you’re with, no matter how boring it is. You find a way to make it fun.

4. You get to act like a raging idiot and make a complete fool of yourself, and it’s okay because he’s standing right next to you doing the exact same thing.

5. You get to sing really loudly in the car. It doesn’t matter if you’re off-key. He won’t mind.

6. You have someone to high-five all the time (and also make up cooler ways to do this).599527_10151070228852474_304423640_n

7. You end up making a zillion inside jokes that you will probably bring up at completely random and inappropriate times.

8. You don’t need to hold hands or kiss each other all the time to feel loved. You are content to just sit and enjoy each other’s company.

9. You unintentionally create this secret language where you will know exactly what the other person is thinking without saying a word.

10. You fight, but you get over it by the end of the day because you miss hanging out with your best friend.

1044631_10151772575887474_1306476148_n 11. You make ugly faces at each other, for no apparent reason other than to creep each other out.

12. You get annoyed by the stereotypes about love and relationships that are in every movie and TV show. Romantic dinners on the beach at sunset? Please. A real relationship is eating a bunch of cheese fries together while making fun of people on Family Feud.

13. You say what you mean all the time because you trust that he’ll love you no matter what. (He will.)

14. You pull pranks on each other. Whenever possible.

15. You get confused by the idea of a “date.” Isn’t it more fun to just hang out?

16. You know everything about each other. That totally random science project he did in 2nd grade? Yep, you know all about it. (and he knows all about the time you got stuck in an actual pile of cement during freshman year of college…true story, guys. It was embarrassing.) 67880_10151369701192474_1840563400_n

17. You want to spend every spare moment with him because he lets you be yourself, completely. And he loves you for it.

18. You find that you’re a better person because you know him.

I would highly recommend falling in love with your best friend, if you can. Care for them has a friend first and foremost, spend time building a relationship, and then make sure you find a way to marry them. : ) From what I’ve seen and experienced, it’s the definitely the way to go.

My fiancé and my best friend are the same person…and I’m very blessed to be able to say that.

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“Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.” Emily Bronte

Waiting.

Happy mid-October everyone! I’ve always loved this time of year. Growing up in New York, my autumns were filled with apple picking, hayrides, pumpkin patches, comfy sweaters, stomping around on colorful leaves, downing hot chocolate like the world was ending, and warming my chilly hands by our wood burning stove. Every year, the heavy cloud of summer heat finally evaporates into the cool, crisp air of Fall and the world starts over again.

Here in the desert, it’s finally cooling down too (and by “cooling down” I mean 95 degrees instead of 115). It’s been a relief to be able to step outside and not feel like my skin is about to fry off my body. These days, the sun is only slightly scalding, as opposed to its usual full-out blazing dead heat. Perfect weather, right?

I think I would’ve liked to have had a fall wedding. Alex and I got engaged almost a whole year ago (November 12th, 2012) so I’m sure that technically, we could’ve pulled off a wedding around this time of year for 2013. But we decided on May of 2014 instead. And since that moment, I’ve gotten so many questions as to why we wanted to wait so long before the big day. It’s actually a question I’ve asked myself many times throughout the past eleven months. A year and a half is a long time to wait when you’ve found the one you want to spend the rest of your life with. And it’s also really hard to watch so many other couples get engaged and then tie the knot before you do. I know it was our choice to have our wedding in May, but it still isn’t easy to wait.

I often have to remind myself of our reasons behind choosing May 23rd, 2014 and practice using the patience I’ve never really had. So this blog post has two goals: the first is to explain exactly why we chose to wait and the second is to hopefully help me remember why I need to be more patient.

#1. School – With graduate school just around the corner for me, I knew that my senior year of college would be crazy busy. I figured that it would probably be smarter for me to focus primarily on school for my last year (with wedding planning here and there) rather than stress out about wedding plans and grad school applications and starting a marriage all at once. Alex has to deal with my stress anxiety enough…no need for added pressure.

#2. Money – This is actually probably our top reason. Since Alex and I are paying for most of our wedding on our own, we had to make sure that we were financial stable enough to commit to all the costs. As a couple of 21-year-olds, we knew it wasn’t going to be easy. We had to change a lot of our expectations for the wedding to fit the reality of our financial abilities (well, I had to change my expectations, anyway. Alex would’ve married me in a courtroom if he could get me to agree with that haha). We needed this year and a half to be able to save money and pay off the wedding a little bit at a time.

#3. Spiritual Readiness – This was something we originally hadn’t considered when we first got engaged.  But now I think it’s a big part of why it’s good that we’re waiting. Marriage isn’t a joke. It’s one of the biggest commitments you can make in this world and it requires a solid understanding of all that it’s intended to mean. Although Alex and I did have some idea as to what God says marriage is when we got engaged, our true understanding was limited. This year so far has allowed us to go through pre-marriage counseling, attend several marriage Bible studies, and learn about our roles as husband and wife together. It’s been such a blessing and I truly believe that our foundation for our life together is much better off than it was before.

Still, the wait has been a real test. Alex is naturally a super patient person, but he tells me all the time that he wishes we could just be married already, too. It’s not even that we’re extremely excited about the wedding itself…of course, we are excited and it’ll definitely be the best day ever, but it’s more than just that. I’m really just excited about the fact that I get to have Alex as my husband. In seven months, I get to see him every night before I go to sleep and wake up with him next to me. I get to buy a puppy with him and start a family with him and grow old with him. It’s all so close and also just a bit too far away.

Patience isn’t easy when everything you want is just out of your reach. But this waiting has forced us both to really rely on God and God alone for everything. I know we picked May 23rd, 2014 for a reason (a few reasons, actually) and we will get there someday. In the meantime, we’ll just have to keep our eyes fixed on our Savior.

“Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him.” Psalm 37:7

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(taken on November 12th, 2012…the night we got engaged <3)

To Alex, with love

These past few weeks, I’ve been feeling overwhelmed with the realization of how incredibly blessed I am in my life, particularly because of my insanely amazing fiancé, Mr. Alex Thomas Iwanski. I am so blessed by him each and every day, in a million different ways (probably in ways I don’t even always realize). And even though I know I could never come close to explaining how incredible he is or how much I absolutely adore him, I wanted to use this post to show you (and him) just a few of the infinite reasons why he is definitely one of the best parts of my life…

When we first met, neither of us was really looking for a relationship. We had each gone through a messy breakup in the past and we weren’t ready to jump into something serious again just yet. Besides, we both kind of had issues trusting people completely with our hearts. So we became just friends instead. Actually, after the first night we hung out, we had already become best friends. It happened so fast and so easily. Alex has always somehow known me better than anyone else ever has and even after that very first night, I could already feel that he saw me for who I really am without me even saying a word. He saw right through all my little charades (it was kind of annoying at times, actually) and could tell right away what I needed most – someone to bring me back to Christ, keep me grounded, and keep my heart safe.

That’s exactly what he became for me. Not because he was trying to manipulate me or make me fall in love with him. This is just who he is. He honestly cares more about me than himself and has been unbelievably selfless in every aspect of our relationship since the day we first met. Even after he started falling for me, he waited patiently to tell me until he knew I was ready to hear it. I don’t know of any other guy who would do that. He knew I needed a friend more than I needed a boyfriend so he waited almost a year for me and made sure I knew he would never leave me or break my heart no matter what happened. When I ask him why in the world he would wait so long for a girl like me, he just says, “I loved you…I knew I had to have you. I would’ve waited even longer if I needed to.”

It took me a long time to fully trust him, despite him proving over and over again that his love was unconditional. That was my own struggle but Alex has never once gotten frustrated with my constant questions or my ridiculous worries about the future. He just tells me again that there is nothing I could ever do or say to make him love me less. And then he proves it again with each and every new day.

Jesus calls husbands to love their wives like Christ loved the church. This isn’t the kind of love we see in romantic comedies or read about in a Nicholas Sparks book. This is the kind of love that is completely and perfectly sacrificial, absolutely unconditional. Alex is such a beautiful example of a love like this. Without him even telling me, I know that he would give anything for me. He would lay down his life for me in a heartbeat if that’s what it took. I’ve never known a love like that before but I do know that it’s so much more than I deserve. Alex is so much more than I deserve. I am blessed beyond measure to be able to call him mine.

A few weeks ago as we were sitting quietly together, just enjoying each other’s company, I asked him if he would always love me this much. He gave me that cute little smile and said, “I’ll love you more.” Seriously, he doesn’t even plan this stuff. He is just that amazing. Sometimes I feel like I must be living in a fairytale. He is too good to be true.

Every day I spend with him is my new favorite day ever. He is 100% my favorite person to hang out with. When I’m with him, I don’t have to be anything but myself, which has always been one of my favorite things about us. No more charades, no more trying to make a good impression… And I guess since Alex has seen me at my absolute worst, making a good impression on him probably wouldn’t get me very far anyway haha. But even after everything, he still sees me as beautiful (something I don’t think I’ll ever understand).

There are so many things I love about him. I love the way he smiles, and sings, and serves the Lord, and cooks delicious food, and dances, and holds my hand. I love how he makes me laugh, how he leads me lovingly, how he gives up so much of his time for me. I love his heart for Jesus, his silly sense of humor, his gorgeous eyes, his drive to be the best he can be, and his insight on everything. I love how he’s good at almost anything he does (except certain card games and also long boarding…haha).

When I think about our future together, there isn’t a doubt in my mind that God has given me absolutely the most perfect person for me. Alex balances me in so many ways, and yet we’re very similar too. There isn’t a thing about him that I would ever change. I honestly can’t remember how I ever got along without him and I can’t imagine a future that he isn’t a part of.

Most people can’t wait for “the rest of their lives to start,” but not me. I’m so happy where I am right now. I have my other half, the one who makes me better than I ever thought I could be and that is more than enough. We’re lucky to be so young and so in love…not everyone has such a blessing.

I could never thank Alex enough for everything he has done for me, everything he has been for me, and everything he has given me. He made me believe in love after I had already decided that I’d never find it for real. His genuine devotion to me is the kind of faithfulness that everyone hopes to find in a relationship. He is, without a doubt, even more perfect for me than I ever thought my husband would be. I grew up wishing for someone who would love me completely, care for me sweetly, do anything just to be with me…and now there is Alex. He is my best friend, my everything, and I couldn’t ask for more.

So, my sweet boy, this post is for you. I hope you know how much I admire you, respect you, look up to you, and LOVE you. Every time I look at you my heart just feels so full of happiness…I don’t exactly know the words to describe it. You are more than I ever thought I would have and I wake up every day feeling so blessed just to know you. Thank you for waiting for me. Thank you for loving me. Thank you for asking me to marry you. : ) And thank you for being just exactly who you are. I love you, I love you, I love you! To the stars, to the moon, to infinity and beyond…and then back again.

Love (in every sense of the word),

your Jem

P.S. 238 more days. <3333