Day 223: When God Gives you Life.

They say that when life gives you lemons, you should make lemonade. But they don’t mention that in the box of ‘life lemons’, you could get a real mix of good and bad, even mushy mouldy lemons – because all it says on the box is “Lemons”.

All you can do is rely on the fact you’ve been told to make lemonade.

And that is how I think of relying on God. We get given the life we have, and regardless of what comes in the box, we are told to make the best of it. Relying on God is hard though, way harder than I ever expected.

Before now, I’d only ever had to rely on God to get me through exams or days where I had around 200 meetings & realistically needed a Time Turner to be able to do anything. I’d just pray that the 5 minute gap between a meeting in church and a meeting in uni would miraculously extend to half an hour.

Surprisingly, sometimes this happened (though I mostly put that down to the time-keeping skills of my fellow students).

Nowadays, I have to rely on God for much bigger things – that I’ll be able to save up enough to be relatively okay when I’m married, that I’ll have a job that is stable and that I love.

These things seem rather easy to obtain when you’re sat in your pyjamas eating pasta and pesto in bed listening to a lecture you’ve never been to, because anything is an improvement on that. And I could trust in God to provide better than that. But more and more, life seems to be hurtling my way, and I’ve had to resort to the old adage, ‘Let go & let God’.

It sounds so cheesy, I hated typing that.

But sometimes I think God uses these times of uncertainty. He uses them to shape and mould us into beings that can and do lean on Him & trust Him.

I feel very scared sometimes that I don’t know what I’m going to be doing in the next year or so. But also very comforted, because I know that it’s not my plan that will be the best one, and things will turn out for the best.

We all look back on events and see that in amongst the chaos, things were working themselves out.

So even though I feel like I’m careering down the road with so much uncertainty, I know I’m exactly where I’m meant to be.

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Day 200: Only 10 months till Christmas!

Does anyone remember Christmas as a kid? When after the glitter and tinsel had been packed away, and New Year was really starting to feel comfortable (around this time, when you stop writing 2014, or for this analogy, 1998), you started to think about when Santa would be arriving again.

“Well it’s only another 10 months now!”

But that ten months seemed to go on forever. As a child, years seemed like decades, and it felt like you were going to be 100 before you turned 10 & you could say “I’m in double figures now!” (Like I will be for the next 89 years – I hope if I get to 100 I’ll be as excited as I was to be 10).

Of course, summer holidays flew by so quickly you forgot what day of the week it was when you were nine and three quarters, but Christmas was still always just out of reach. Those excruciating 12 months, anticipating the lights and the tree and the presents and the elf footprints in the sherbet.

That, friends, is how waiting to get married feels for 22 year old Emily. Today, we hit a milestone of 200 days engaged. Which now leaves another 893 days to go.

29 months left. I sort of feel like if I could speak to 9 year old me, I’d probably make me cry, because 10 months until Santa brings you a Bug’s Life nightlight is nothing!

Whilst I know it’ll be so much better than a Bug’s Life nightlight and a tangerine in a sock (please let it at least be better than a tangerine in a sock), sometimes I find it quite hard to imagine just how far away our wedding is.

Like those last few months before you turn 10, or last few hours before you can open your presents on Christmas Day, it feels like it might never end.

I’m being melodramatic of course, but sometimes all you want is that Bug’s Life nightlight.

Or a husband.

Day 133: A Word from James Pt. II

Emily: Yesterday, I shared Part One of James’ take on our engagement and what led up to it. Today is about the engagement itself – I have rather a lot more to say about this bit, so expect a lot of brackets and italics (Apologies in advance).

This was it.

The deposit was down on the ring. The plan was made, and now Emily had agreed to go away for the weekend up to the Northumberland coast.

(E: rather reluctantly I have to say – it was planned the day after my graduation and all I wanted to do was stay with my friends in Sheffield and not to go to some secluded place in the middle of nowhere. Aren’t I a joy)

Northumberland, for those who haven’t experienced it, is hands down my favourite part of England; ruggedly beautiful shorelines and rolling hills in the most north-easterly part of the country and most importantly, the first place me and Emily went away together as a couple.

Stage 2 was heading to the local French patisserie and stocking the most romantic picnic I could muster; a variety of salads, antipasti and French desserts to enjoy on the beach later that evening. While in town I paid up in full and got the ring I would give to Emily when I asked her to be my wife ( I must have sat in the car afterwards for 5 minutes internally chanting: please don’t hate it please don’t hate it…).
From then on things went fast, I bundled Emily into the car and we were up the A1 (E: saying very peculiar things like “Do you like our relationship the way it is?”) to the familiar stunning landscape and the cottage. Things were unpacked. A picnic was suggested, and we headed to the beach.

I assured Emily that I had the perfect spot in mind, and that the small hike over the dunes with picnic paraphernalia was entirely justified. (E: I can assure you that a ‘small hike’ it was not – I was in flip flops carrying a picnic basket over what seemed like sand mountains)

Just past some grasses I found the spot I had planned on; a beautiful vista of the now deserted beach, sheltered by the dunes and entirely enclosed by reeds and shrubs.

Unfortunately it seemed someone else had recently discovered the spot and, after marvelling at the vista and seclusion, had promptly paid tribute to it by swathing the area in vomit. Although a little disheartened/panicked, I masterfully diverted Emily from the crisis zone and we set up out of range of the vomit and ended up having an amazing picnic, with great food and chat and tea.
Then the time came when all the food had been eaten, desserts devoured and tea drunk. Nothing was left to stall with and the ring box was weighing heavy inside my jacket. Several skillful attempts to bring the conversation round had crashed and burned and I had to work fast before we had to leave (I knew that soon it would either be dark or Emily’s inexorable bladder would betray me).

With the tact and insight I have come to love, Emily then turned to me and said: “You know what, with all this champagne and fancy picnic, I really thought you were going to propose to me for a second”.

Not one to miss an opportunity, I apologised, asking if she would forgive me for the disappointment, jokingly asking whether she still loved me, and then if she still wanted to spend the rest of her life with me.

As she turned to look at me to see what I was talking about, the ring box was in my hand and I asked the question that was 5 years in the making, 3 months in the planning and would shape our future together. A few ‘Oh my God’ and an ‘are you serious’ later, she said yes (!!) and we were launched onto this new adventure, being engaged.

And so ensued a lot of weeks of happiness and joy, telling our family and friends (and a nice lady at Alnwick Castle who asked if we had the same surname – “not yet” was the reply), until Bridezilla arrived and wanted to book everything immediately.

I had no idea that he was going to ask me, despite him saying some very strange things about being engaged. I also now realise that I need to lighten up a little bit, and if James tells me to carry a picnic basket over sand mountains, there will probably be a good reason for it!

Day 132: A Word from James

The next two posts on this very girly, very flowery and very pink blog will be coming directly from James, my wonderful wordsmith who has put me to shame with a plethora (yes, I can use big words too) of adjectives in his first post.

Over to him (with some small insights from me along the way):

Hey everyone, James here.

On social media I’m usually the “quiet one” (I don’t have Twitter, Instagram, or a blog and rarely post on Facebook) but Emily asked me to chime in for a bit of background on how I ended up proposing; from inception of the idea to the big question- so here I am.

It wasn’t long after we got engaged and the dust had settled that Emily asked me: “Why now, what changed?” Up to this point we had talked about our relationship and our future and neither of us was in any doubt that we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together, but the timing wasn’t great.

For those who don’t know I had just secured a place to study medicine: a dream realised, but also a sentence to 5 years hard studentship and (potentially most importantly) no money. Add to this that Emily was just finishing her degree with no job secured and the fact that I have always made my negative feelings towards long engagements clear, Emily’s surprise at my proposal seems well founded.

So what did happen? It must surely have been some colossal epiphany to cause me to perform this U-turn and go back on views I had been spouting to Emily for 5 years.

The answer, rather unsatisfactorily, is that I couldn’t quite tell you. For 5 years I have loved Emily, we’ve shared laughter and tears, grown into best friends, confided in each other and explored faith together. We’ve even discussed what marriage, long term relationships, settling down and having careers mean to us, but I can’t say any of these things by themselves made my mind up.

The only way I can describe it to those who ask is I just knew. And it’s difficult to know you want to spend the rest of your life with your best friend (to whom you tell everything) and not want to tell them. So I decided I was going to propose and start this hypocritical, unexpected elongated engagement.

Have you ever had to tell someone something that you had cooked up in your own head? The something is a something you’ve been thinking intensely about for a while, and it’s very important that the someone is on board with the something, or isn’t outrageously against it, or at least doesn’t swerve the car off the road when you tell them.

This was the position I found myself in, driving home from Newcastle with my Dad when I told someone for the first time and the feelings in my head became tangible. Thankfully my parents are amazing and none of the things I feared they could say (“Have you thought about this?”, “Don’t you think you’re too young”, “Is this because you’re a Christian now?”) came near, instead they were ecstatic and on hand for tactical planning of the Big Question. I told my brother not long after, and a bear hug and a bit of jumping around later it was time to get down to business.

It was a good thing I had them on side to talk about it all with, as over the next month, every time Emily asked how I was or what I’d done today, I would have to consciously bite back proposal plans (E: especially when I blew up when he was 2 & a half hours late to take me to the gym; I later found out he’d just bought my ring). Turns out having a best friend to whom you tell everything backfires when there’s something you specifically can’t tell them…

Day 124: Sarah Jane Ethan

After we booked our picturesque church and fabulous village hall for the setting of our wedding, the very first thing James and I did was book our fabulously talented photographer, Sarah Jane Ethan.

The capturing of our day is so important to us, as long after the wedding day is over we’ll be able to look at our photographs and reminisce endlessly about how great it was. Our children and grandchildren will be able to see our wedding in stunning detail, and I always secretly hope that some famous descendant of mine will be on “Who Do You Think You Are” in 150 years time and they’ll cry when they discover some old photo of Great-great Grandma Emily (I’m not narcissistic I promise).

That in mind, SJ was the first person I thought of to be our photographer. I’ve ooh-ed and ah-ed over her photography for a while now, and it was a no brainer. Her images are so natural and beautiful, and completely show the love and happiness that surrounds a wedding day. I honestly urge you to have a look at her website because the images are just stunning (her husband is also a fantastic photographer too!).

Of course, this was made doubly special when I watched a video on her website and I realised that SJ was the lady who prayed with me when I became a Christian six years ago!!

I felt like crying!

It will be so special to have her sharing in our day, especially seeing as she was there at the very start of my faith journey, and I can’t wait to get to know her more in the next 969 days.

Day 118: Why so young?!

The first thing people who don’t know me and James do when we say we’re engaged is very often negative.

We’ve had rolling of the eyes, raised eyebrows and in a certain, nameless bridal boutique, all out refusing to take me seriously because I look so young until I rang up  (their attitude changed tenfold).

All of this naturally centres around the fact I look about fourteen, and I look like if I am engaged, it’s probably illegal in a lot of countries including the UK.

And even if I am older than I look, I can’t be that old.

The second thing is to ask “what, are you religious or something?”. My exasperated answer always revolves around, “yes, I am a Christian, but no, that isn’t the only reason I am getting married.”

People seem to assume that James and I are a) not taking this whole engagement thing seriously, and b) we’re only getting married because we’re ‘religious’.

Yes, getting engaged at 22 in 2014 is young and somewhat unconventional. And yes, being a Christian has something to do with that.

But actually, I didn’t really care how old I was going to be when I marry James. I just knew, from quite early on, that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him. Marriage is such an important life step, and I wouldn’t want to take that lightly with anyone – I certainly don’t want to be a divorcee by 30.

Marriage is something that has to be built and of course there is no happy ever after. I fully expect that after a while, James’ explaining voice will drive me over the edge; that sometimes he will be hard to love – and so will I.

But marriage wasn’t created to be easy – we’re all imperfect people trying to find our way in life.

We live in a throwaway culture, where marriage is just seen as the ‘next stage’ in a relationship, and one that if it doesn’t work out, can just be abandoned. That humans aren’t meant to be monogamous and it’s only human nature to want to move on and get bored. That the feeling of being in love & feeling butterflies in our stomach is the only thing that should keep us together.

But that is what makes marriage so special, that we go against our instincts to sow our wild oats, and commit for life to one person. For me, divorce isn’t an option, unless of course someone was in an abusive, disrespectful relationship.

So yes, we are young – we fully expect the rolling of the eyes and the disapproving looks. But we are living for something much greater, something that our God has ordained and planned for us, even if that bucks the societal trends.

And I won’t let that bridal boutique treat me like a silly little girl.

Day 115: Appleton Wiske

Over the next few days, I thought I’d introduce you to what we have already booked!

So, Appleton Wiske. Home of our church and venue.

My family have lived in this tiny little village since the 1600s, so it was only apt that I get married here. My grandma still lives there, and she lives across the road from the church, so no wedding cars for me (very French!). St Mary’s is beautiful, and was originally built in the 1100s.

I get giddy just thinking about it!

For our reception, we’ll be having it in Appleton Wiske village hall – not the most glam of venues but one James and I really value, because we can do what we like with it! Now, it’s getting far too late and if I get too excited about weddings, I won’t sleep tonight!

Next time: Our amazing phographer!