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Adoption, Infertility, Our Story

How Josie Got Her Name

February 4, 2015

The name Josephine Rose wasn’t on our radar until only a few weeks prior to her birth.

But when we finally said that name out loud, it was instantly perfect. The name fit our story of waiting for her so well.

That’s what we want to share here today.

It all starts back during our days of dating. Jonathan was battling with some personal issues and in turn I was struggling to know where our relationship was supposed to turn. I prayed a novena to St. Therese begging for her help. I asked her for red roses and white lilies if I truly was on God’s path for me in dating and marrying Jonathan. What do you know, I show up at my home parish later that week and it’s FILLED with that exact flower arrangement. Moments later I was filled with peace that I was right where I was supposed to be.

I don’t know how but from that moment I knew the red rose and white lily would be a special sign to me of God’s love and promise that I was in the middle of his will for my life. There were times I would see the arrangement over the next couple of years and it was always exactly when I needed to see it. Always a source of comfort and peace, since the rose is a symbol of Mary and the white lily is a symbol of St. Joseph. I knew that with them praying for me, I was in good hands.

Until it got confusing.

A year ago Jonathan and I were in the middle of pretty invasive infertility treatments. We were trying some new medications and I was going in for ultrasounds to monitor my follicle development and hopeful ovulation 4-6 times a cycle. It was truly exhausting but I had more hope than ever that each cycle might be the cycle.

I was also extremely busy at work, planning and executing the FOCUS Greek Getaways. Let’s just say that between those and dealing with my infertility treatments, I was only surviving by God’s grace.

It was February 6th and I was in North Carolina for the Smokies Greek Getaway. Unusually I was actually a few days late and my period felt nowhere in sight. Could it be?!?!?!?! I called Jonathan excitedly and decided I wouldn’t test until after the Getaway since I needed to just get through the weekend first and foremost.

Our planning team went to pray and attend mass at a nearby Cathedral and upon walking in, I see a statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe, surrounded by white lilies and red roses. “I must be pregnant!” was the only thought in my mind. I was sure of it. I don’t just randomly see that arrangement of flowers. Ever. I sat down to attend mass, feeling peaceful and content, in awe that I was finally (or so I thought) carrying life within me.

Fast-forward one day to February 7th. I get my period. Hard.

I plummeted into a couple hours of extreme sadness and depression, knowing I needed to pull myself together so I could run a conference in only a few hours. I knew the students were worth offering my pain up for, so that is what I did. Offered it up for their weekend and moved forward, telling nobody what I was going through.

Now I was just mad. I NEVER see the roses and lilies randomly. Why now, when I undoubtedly thought we were FINALLY going to be parents? Nothing made sense.

Until this past August when Jonathan and I began to think about names for the baby we were hoping to adopt.

We were standing in a Marshall’s t-shirt aisle when Jonathan said, “I think I know the name of this baby girl. How about Josephine Rose, in honor of the white lily and red rose that has always been a source of peace for us.”

It sat with me for a moment. I thought back on that last time I saw the lily and the rose and got tricked into thinking I was pregnant. But then I realized something…

What’s nine months from those bleary February days when I saw the red rose and while lily, assured that we were FINALLY expecting a baby?

The due date our our baby girl. She might not have been conceived in my womb at the time…but she was conceived during those very days.

Oh. My. Goodness.

Everything clicked at once and I realized that I wasn’t tricked last February. It really was yet again, a sign that meant something special for me. A sign of hope.

Josephine Rose was the perfect name.

That evening, we looked up the name of Josephine…and it meant “God will add.” Yet again, perfect. God was adding this little lady to our family only in a way that was so undeniably HIM. On one hand, I couldn’t believe it but on the other hand? Totally could. This is the kind of story only God writes. I could never have made it this good.

From that day on, we knew that was to be this little gal’s name.

On November 10, 2014 when we finally held her in our arms and were able to call her Josephine Rose for the first time, it was so very special. It was a name filled with so much meaning and purpose…a perfect name for our new family’s story of finding one another.

Marriage, Our Story

A Perfectly Imperfect Love Story: Part 3 – Two Big Days

October 23, 2014

This is Part 3 of a 3-Part series. Be sure to read Part 1 and Part 2.
This post was originally published on the FOCUS Blog.

We shared about how we met, began dating, and endured some trials during our discernment of marriage. But at the end of it all, we both were confident that our vocation was to marry one another.

I know in part two it was difficult to capture the entire process but Jonathan and I dated for about eleven months before deciding we were ready to take the next steps. That may seem quick but on some level, having to work through the pornography sped our discernment up. Once we saw God’s love conquer that issue, we knew it could conquer anything else our life together could bring. Our love matured much more quickly through that trial and our discernment could have taken longer had we not experienced that setback.

Like previous posts, we will take turns telling our story.

Amanda:

I mentioned that around Spring Break Jonathan mentioned that he thought I should start to pray more specifically about our relationship and possible engagement. He did this because I told him early on that I don’t like things sprung on me. I would greatly dislike an out of the blue proposal and I would need some warning that it was coming. Not all the details. Just warning so I could make sure I knew what my answer would be with no hesitation.

I also happened to be visiting him in NYC when we had that conversation and while we were cleaning his apartment, I ended up finding the ring. Whoops!!!

Jonathan:

Like Amanda said, things were pointing towards marriage. I called her dad and asked for his blessing. (I’d have asked in person, but I was 1,200 miles away.) After I got his yes, I took an inherited diamond and had it set in a new ring. After that, I hatched my plan.

Lent was coming up, so I figured I’d propose around Easter. Throughout Lent, I sent Amanda handmade postcards with a Scripture verse or saint quote on the front, and a short reflection on the back. The deal was, she’d receive the card, pray with it, and hand it over to her roommate. I told her the reason for the hand off was that the short time with the card would be a sort of analogy for our short time here on earth. In reality, it was so she’d never have multiple cards with her and figure out the larger plan.

On each card, I started the quote with a large drop capital. Not only did it make it look a little nicer, when the cards were laid out in order, the drop caps spelled “Amanda Marie Nissen will you marry me?”

It was planned that I would fly out to Champaign to visit Amanda for Easter weekend, arriving Thursday night. I booked my flight a night in advance and snuck out early to surprise Amanda the Holy Thursday morning.

I schemed with her fellow missionaries that during their usual team prayer time, they would pray somewhere else, leaving only Jesus and little ol’ me in the chapel, waiting for Amanda.

Amanda: 

All of Lent Jonathan kept sending me these cards. I thought it was a great prayer tool and they were so neat to look at. I had to give them to my roommate Andrea because “life is passing by and I shouldn’t hold onto things.” Fine by me. I didn’t read into that or think twice.

It was April 21, 2011 and I was running late to my FOCUS team prayer time (not shocking). When I ran around the corner into the chapel, my team wasn’t there…it was just Jonathan.

I was deeply confused. He wasn’t flying in until that afternoon…

I began to mumble about my hair air-drying and where was my team at…clearly not firing on all cylinders. (See, surprises don’t work well on me!)

Jonathan:

I was really nervous. I had never asked a girl to marry me before, especially not after a month-long build up of secret messages hidden on postcards.

Amanda walked into the small chapel, and questioned my presence. I told her I was there to pray. She took a spot at a kneeler, and I came right up beside her. I looked over at her, and burst out laughing.

I laugh when I’m nervous. Always have, probably always will. And I’ve never been more nervous than at this moment. So, naturally, I’ve never laughed more uncontrollably then that moment either. I couldn’t get it together. Finally, Amanda smiled and grabbed my face, made me look right at her, and said, “What are you trying to say? Out with it!”

I finally composed myself, said some really sweet things (which neither of us remember) and then got to the point. “I know I’ve been rambling a little bit,” I start laying down the postcards, one by one, “but what I’m trying to ask you is,” now the secret message is revealing itself, “Amanda Marie Nissen, will you marry me?”

“Yes!”

I move in for a kiss, get two lips full of hair (it had fallen in front of her mouth), and said “I love you,” both of which were big deals, because we agreed to not kiss nor say “I love you,” unless we were engaged to be married. She said, “I love you, too,” moved her hair out of the way, and gave me a smooch.

Amanda:

We were engaged!!!

Jonathan asked me when I thought we should get married and I told him I already knew. The night before I couldn’t fall asleep for the life of me. October 22 kept flashing in my brain and I had no idea why. I decided to Google it because maybe it was an important day. I searched and it was set to be the FIRST EVER St. John Paul II feast day!

I had a fleeting though of, “Oh it’d be nice to get married that day,” but I remembered in my diocese you need 6 months of marriage prep so I figured that date was out.

Well what do you know? Jonathan proposed 6 months and 1 day shy of that date. It also happened to be a Saturday. And my home parish was available. The date was set!

Jonathan:

A little bit later, we entered a wedding contest (a really long story that’s too hairy to dive into here. All you need to know is that we ended up WINNING!)

Amanda:

Since we won the contest, marriage planning was more or less concentrated into one week that summer. This left us more time on our hands to focus on preparing for the Sacrament of Matrimony by reading books and interviewing older married couples.

We started to have more serious conversations about finances, my likely infertility issues, family traditions, past relationship mistakes, and sex.

Thankfully by waiting to kiss until engagement and even afterwards making it not a huge deal, we never struggled with being unchaste during our relationship. It was just a non-issue and we were always so busy we didn’t have opportunities to take things farther than we wanted. We also tried to use common sense…we didn’t sit around in dark rooms watching movies until 2 am. It was amazingly easy to keep chastity at the forefront with a little planning and clearly defined boundaries laid out.

Jonathan:

The big day came. October 22, 2011. The first feast day of freshly-beatified John Paul II. We danced, we ate, we entered into a life-long sacramental bond, we rode a party bus. It was a great day.

Here we are, three years later…and two days to be exact.

Amanda:

The honeymoon phase wore off in time, and the day-to-day realities of dying to ourselves have set in.

We’ve known some serious highs by becoming debt-free and pursuing financial freedom. It’s been a total blessing for our marriage to be aligned and at peace financially.

We’ve known some serious lows by discovering we have infertility. We hoped to have children quickly, but that hasn’t been the case. It’s been a trial. We’ve taken our turns suffering, and we’ve taken our turns holding one another up. It’s in carrying the cross and sharing in the victories that we’ve learned how to be married, how to help one another on the journey through this life and on to the next. With that said, we are excited to be adopting our first child in two short weeks!

We’ve learned (and will continue to learn) that we can’t write our own story or control God’s will for our lives. As Mother Theresa once said, we can be “little pencils” in the hand of God and allow him to write the story through out lives. Only then are we truly living what God has prepared for us to become holy.

And that’s our story! 🙂

TL;DR – For those wanting the bullet points, here they are:

  • Gentlemen, if possible, always ask your future father-in-law for permission to marry his daughter.
  • Engagement is finally the time where you can start diving into really big topics for the first time that were previously off-limits. Topics like children, in-laws, or future expectations about sex  and money. With all things, remember prudence, as conversations about sex don’t need to be filled with extreme detail.
  • Engagement can also be a stressful time as it involved wedding planning. Remember the point is the marriage and not the wedding. Keep the priority focused on the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony and less on the wedding day.
  • We waited to express the “I Love You” term and our first kiss for engagement. There were specific reasons behind why we chose to do that and they is not one way to handle those boundaries. Please don’t take that and make it your rule too. Every couple has to discuss what healthy boundaries look like and those were ours given our unique persons.
  • Children are a gift and not a right. Treat every child like the blessing from Heaven that they are.
  • Abandon your vocation to the Lord. We all have thoughts of what God’s will is for our life…and usually he totally turns that upside down in some way. Go will the flow and stay abandoned throughout every trial and blessing.
Marriage, Our Story

A Perfectly Imperfect Love Story: Part 2 – The Pain of Pornography

October 22, 2014

This is Part 2 of a 3-Part Series. Read Part 1 here.
This post was originally published on the FOCUS Blog.

We ended the last post with us saying our goodbyes and gearing up for our new long distance relationship. The care-free days of dancing on rooftops while singing High School Musical songs were over. (Yes that actually happened)

Here in this post we want to share the second part of our story – where we transitioned from a budding new relationship into something more serious. We will take turns telling the story back and forth like last time as well.

Here we go.

Amanda:

The days of summer were gone. Our new normal became Skype dates a few times a week and occasional phone calls in between.

In September Jonathan came to visit me in Champaign, IL and we had a wonderful visit. We went to an apple orchard, drank beers on rooftop with friends, enjoyed Chicago-style deep dish pizza, and visited a farmer’s market. We were falling in love…but it was still wayyy to early to admit or express that! 🙂

I do remember explicitly having a conversation about “how things were going” in the relationship. Nothing too serious but we both agreed things were going well. We established that neither of us were just hanging around just to keep going on dates, talking on the phone, or traveling for kicks. There was a point now…to discern marriage. But it was still very much an individual discernment at this stage in the game….a conversation in prayer, spiritual direction or with friends…not with one another yet.

A book I’d read during this time was “How to Avoid Falling in Love with a Jerk.” The most memorable concept from the book was that everyone can be awesome for about three months…and then facades begin to fade away and the real person starts to emerge. Our relationship was going well, and we’d just passed the three month mark…could things be too good to be true?

Jonathan:

Things were going really well. Until the next visit. Amanda came out to New York City to visit me, and while we were walking around the city, a cab with an ad for a strip club passed by. Amanda said something about how gross that was, and then asked if I had ever looked at pornography.

This was the moment I had been dreading.

I told her we should go back to my apartment and talk.

I knew this conversation had to happen before the relationship went any further. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy.

Amanda:

Words can’t express my horror and disgust with Jonathan when I found out about his pornography use. I ran to a bathroom, fell on the floor, and cried for what felt like hours. I went back and forth between hating him and feeling sad for him.

When I finally emerged from the bathroom, I wanted to hear everything. No holding back. Now or never.

Jonathan:

I wish I could have said, “No. Porn wasn’t ever really an issue for me.” I wish I could have said, “I looked at it a little bit when I was younger, but when I realized what it was, I stopped.” I wish I could have said, “It was an issue, but I sought out help, I got help, and I haven’t looked back since.”

But I couldn’t say those things. I had to say, “Yes. I’ve had a porn habit for about ten years. I didn’t know what it was when I started, and before I realized I needed to stop looking at porn and masturbating, I was hooked and haven’t been able to stop. I have been too proud to tell myself I can’t do this alone. I have not seriously reached out for help. I am still in this swamp.”

Amanda:

Jonathan told me everything right then and there. It took a couple hours to talk through and there were a LOT of tears and shame. I realized he’d been held captive by this for literally a decade and despite going to Confession, it had never really been fully brought to the Light of Christ.

There was no turning back and I knew then this would either make or break our relationship. I walked to the place I was staying that night in a state of numbness. I couldn’t cry anymore…there was nothing left.

Jonathan:

I had just hurt the person I cared about most in the world. It felt like I was towing an 18-wheeler with a bungee cord. Even stopping, right now, will do nothing to keep the truck from running us over.

We talked for a very long time. Then, Amanda left.

Amanda:

Emotionally I was a complete mess. I went back to Illinois and felt haunted. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat. I was a nervous wreck at all times of the day. Thoughts raced through my mind constantly. Maybe Jonathan is looking at porn at this very moment….What can I do to stop him….Who can I talk to about this….

After a few weeks, Jonathan wasn’t getting help like he said he would. He had been falling back into porn use and I refused to be in a relationship where he wouldn’t combat his addiction like he said he would.

So I broke up with him out of respect for myself. It was a hard choice but I had to get some distance so I could start functioning again.

A few weeks went by…and I thought of Jonathan often. I decided to pray a St. Therese novena and ask specifically for red roses and white lilies if I was supposed to marry Jonathan. I never ever ask for flowers when I pray novenas. I don’t like that magical thinking. But this time, I had to ask specifically. My emotions were so erratic and I needed St. Therese’s help big time. If I was about to miss my vocation…I needed her to tell me.

I prayed the novena and felt more and more peace every day. I knew I made the right choice in gaining some distance and telling Jonathan he needed counseling….but I started to feel like breaking up with him was the easy out and I was actually supposed to stand beside him in this battle. On the ninth day of the novena, I was back home in Omaha getting ready to speak at my home parish about the work I do with FOCUS before Thanksgiving. I walked into the chapel and there were at least a dozen large arrangements around the alter…every single one of them was comprised of red roses and white lilies.

I knew then than we’d be back together and were supposed to get married.

Jonathan:

Before all this happened (especially the breaking up) I had agreed to drive out to Omaha with a friend for Thanksgiving. I didn’t want to leave them alone with the 24-hour drive, so I went anyway. I stayed with a friend, had Thanksgiving with his family, and hoped I’d get a chance to see Amanda.

My friend and I went to Mass on Thanksgiving, and what do you know, out of the dozens and dozens of parishes in Omaha, and all the Masses offered that day, Amanda was there. We met up in the back of the Church after Mass.

My iPhone had been the way I was looking at porn, but I had a hard time getting rid of it because 99% of the time it was really useful and handy, especially getting around New York City. Jesus tells us “if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out.” Well, my iPhone was causing me to sin, so I plucked it out. And by “plucked it out,” I mean “smashed it with a hammer.”

I gave Amanda the processor as a sign that the phone had been killed.

We agreed to meet again later that night and talk.

We met up, talked, and with signs of me taking concrete action in my fight, we got back together.

Amanda:

We were back together and I knew the road wouldn’t be easy but it was God’s will for us. Jonathan got into counseling. He got a group of men to surround him with accountability and prayer. He got rid of temptations and circumstances that led to temptation. Trust began to heal.

I knew we needed some in person time to continue making a good discernment of marriage. Over winter break we scheduled it so we could spend time with one another and our families over a three week window. Dating long distance can be fun but you don’t really get to know someone over fun-filled weekends in NYC seeing Broadway shows. Anyone could have a good time doing that. We needed “real life” to make good discernment choices. Being with one another around families for a few weeks was perfect.

We started falling in love again.

Jonathan:

Yes, I entered into counseling for my addiction to porn and masturbation. And it saved my life. It took a little bit of time, some adjustments to habits, and LOTS of fasting and prayer (by myself and others), but I made amazing progress.

That spring, I got the go ahead for proposing from Amanda’s dad.

I planned it all out and starting laying the groundwork for the proposal.

Amanda:

Spring was really good to Jonathan and I. Thankfully Jonathan’s counseling was going so well that the porn issue was falling farther out of sight as he healed. We continued visiting once a month and I remember sometime over Spring Break Jonathan said I should probably begin praying more specifically about engagement.

I took that as a cue that he had discerned to propose to me and was giving my slow melancholic heart time to process before springing it one me.

I asked the Religious Sisters in town if I could have a Saturday morning alone in their chapel to pray. I went there for five hours, praying specifically about marrying Jonathan. By the end of my time, it was clear as day that if Jonathan asked me to marry him, I would say “yes!” So much peace filled me with that decision and I felt like God was right there with me. I scheduled Spiritual Direction and talked it all over with a priest. He thought I did a great job in setting aside time to hear the Lord’s voice about the next steps.

I told Jonathan about my time in prayer and that I had come to my own decision about our relationship and he was free to pursue the next step whenever he felt it was time.

Tune in next time for the engagement story and how we prepared for marriage! 🙂

For those who want the bullet points and meat, here are the lessons we learned at this stage in our relationship:

  • For those who are long distance – you have to have more than short weekends where all you do is stay up late, laugh, and have fun. This won’t be enough to make a good and solid discernment. Get longer stretches of “normal life” around one another.
  • A couple months into dating is the time to bring up any struggles, weaknesses, or addictions. Too early on is going to crush growth but too late will crush trust or discernment.
  • If there are any “big” issues that require counseling to overcome, get in as soon as possible. You can’t be one another’s counselors.
  • Same goes with accountability partners. You can’t provide this in dating relationships. Accountability partners for any area of sin or weakness should be same gender friends or a Spiritual Director.
  • Spend time with one another’s families as much as you possibly can while discerning marriage. This is where people are typically most “themselves” and you will be spending a lot of time with this person’s family for the rest of your life if you choose to marry them. Get used to it now! 🙂
  • Make sure to really discern your vocation in prayer and Spiritual Direction…don’t just haphazardly react to options. This will prevent you from doubting later on or from the enemy getting you to question your discernment years down the road.
Marriage, Our Story

A Perfectly Imperfect Love Story: Part 1 – First Impressions & Second Chances

October 21, 2014

This is Part 1 of a 3-Part series.
This post was originally published on the FOCUS Blog.

With all this talk about dating and relationships, Jonathan and I wanted to share our story with you.

Why?

Since we have the most perfect love story ever written.

NOT!

We totally don’t have the perfect relationship and that is why we want to share our story. We will be tag-teaming this post, switching back and forth between our two perspectives as we tell the story and discuss lessons we learned along the way.

Let’s go back to May 2008…

Amanda: 

There I was, freshly graduated from college and a brand new FOCUS missionary. I was embarking on a one-year dating fast and to be honest I was very excited about it.

I had just come off a discernment roller coaster the previous year. It’s a long story but I had seriously discerned both marriage and religious life in college and was hoping Jesus would call me to be his bride even though it wasn’t looking like he was going to. #CatholicGirlProblems! (PS – Don’t be afraid to discern religious life, it’s awesome!)

It was the very first week of FOCUS New Staff Training and I remember vividly walking up a hill towards the building we would learn about how to fundraise our income. I was scared out of my mind and could feel butterflies in my stomach. To my right I begin to hear music…”For The Love of Money” (money money money money, mo-ney!) began to get louder and louder. I peered over my shoulder and this guy had his computer propped on his shoulder like a boombox playing this song. He danced up the sidewalk without a care in the world. The I noticed the long pony-tail…down to his elbows.

I was not impressed. Mr. Jonathan Teixeira was immediately filed into the “friend” zone and that’s where I intended to keep this goof-off who couldn’t take life s.e.r.i.o.u.s.l.y.

Jonathan:

That summer, too, was my first year as a missionary with FOCUS. My only memory of Amanda from that summer was one afternoon near the end of training during which I played Korean rock-paper-scissors (think of regular RPS but with a layer of deception and slapping each other built-in) with a group of people which included Amanda. She was pretty competitive, and she slapped hard.

Amanda: 

Fast-forward two years to the summer of 2010. My spiritual director had recently told me I was “beating a dead horse” in trying to make Jesus call me to religious life and I needed to move on. With that clarity, I felt a great deal of peace that I was finally ready for whatever God wanted to do with my life, even if it differed from what I thought I wanted.

That summer, Jonathan and I were at yet another FOCUS New Staff Training. This time around, we are both part of a smaller leadership group and finally had opportunities to actually get to know one another instead of making passer-by judgements.

We were at one of the smaller gatherings when it was time for some intercessory prayer. All of a sudden as I am deep in prayer, I hear a male voice start praying enthusiastically. I peaked one eye open and saw it was Jonathan Teixiera. What?! I thought that guy was a joke…but there was definitely a serious side, and it was clear he passionately loved Jesus and the Blessed Mother.

I instantly crushed.

But wait? We didn’t really know one another…so how do I get to know this guy without being a creepster or emasculator?

Naturally, I threw a party at my house for 30+ people and invited Jonathan in hopes I would end up getting to talk with him one-on-one. I was confident that once he saw the real me, that’s all it would take to get him to reciprocate feelings.

Brilliant plan…

Jonathan:

So, there was a party for all the missionaries going into their third year with FOCUS. I went to the party and agreed to go a little early to help set up. Amanda picked up me and the other helpers and took us to the house.

Later that evening, I got into a conversation with a group of people and what do you know, Amanda entered into that group. Before I know it, the rest of the group was gone, and Amanda and I had been talking for 90 minutes.

The party wound down, and since I helped set up, I figured I’d help clean up. Later, it was time to head back to the dorms, and Amanda and I walked to her car. Turns out, everybody else who had gotten a ride to the party for Amanda had already left. It was just Amanda and I in the car. Alone.

We’re chatting, and in the middle of a sentence, a HUGE lightening bolt streaks across the sky. At the same moment, we both let out a “OH WOW! COOOOOL!” exclamation noise. It was at that moment, when Amanda allowed herself to have such a genuine, impromptu, childlike reaction that I first though, “Hmmmm, there may be something to this Amanda girl. hmmm…” That night, I figured I might try to get to know her a little better.

Amanda:

I started to notice Jonathan “sharking” around.

What I mean by that is he was always on my perimeter. Whether I was going out to pizza with friends, rafting, playing soccer, or eating dinner, Jonathan was around. He would come up to chat me up at least once or twice. I stayed engaged and interested in our conversation, hopefully letting him know I thought he was interesting and cool. It’s a fine art to master in letting a guy know you are interested without spelling it in the clouds.

I knew the attraction was there and it was only a matter of time until he made his move.

Jonathan:

I had crossed paths with Amanda a few times that week. She was always very nice, so I figured I’d ask her out. I got up the nerve and decided to ask her on our first break from classes of the day. The break came, and I made my way over to Amanda. My hands got all sweaty, heart pounded… and Amanda was talking with somebody else. I didn’t want to go over and say, “Excuse me, could I interrupt your conversation to ask Amanda on a date,” so I figured I’d wait until she was relatively alone. Which took ALL DAY.

Finally, after Mass that evening, I noticed Amanda praying in the pew before leaving. I thought, “Oh, a short thanksgiving prayer after Mass. I’ll wait a minute or two, catch her on her way out of the chapel, and talk to her before anyone else gets the chance!” Turns out, it wasn’t a short thanksgiving prayer, but AN ENTIRE ROSARY. 25 minutes later, she finally leaves the chapel, and immediately runs into one of the chaplains and begins a conversation with him! I walked past them and hoped I could catch Amanda after they talked.

They ended their conversation, and Father turned right to go to the rectory. Amanda turned left to go to the cafeteria for dinner. She was alone! “Now’s your chance,” went the voice in my head. “You ask her now, or you’ll never have another chance! Go! Now!” I stroll up to Amanda and start some small talk. We walk towards the cafeteria full of missionaries, and arrive to the entrance of the dinner line. I wish her a good dinner… and turn to leave! “You didn’t ask her, what are you thinking?! You blew it!” I turn around, “Amanda?” I say. “Yes?” she responds. “Would… uh, are you… are you doing anything later to-to-tonight? Would you like to get.. ice cream?” I stammer out. She responds, “Yes!” with a perfect mix of excitement and grace. I respond to her yes by high-fiving her, turning around, and running away! Whaaaat? No details, nothing. It’s a wonder we got together later that night.

Amanda:

He finally asked! 🙂 Of course I ate the fastest dinner of my life, ran upstairs, and had my fabulous roommate dress me up. We went on that ice cream date and had a lazy stroll around the park. That night after our date, I went upstairs, got ready for bed and laid down. I was so excited that I couldn’t sleep. So nearly an hour after the date, I walked down to the chapel…and what do I see?

Jonathan…kneeling alone, up front, right in front of the tabernacle. When we parted ways, he headed in that direction…which means he went to pray after our date. I knew this guy was a keeper and was excited to keep getting to know him.

And of course I proceeded to hide in the back of the chapel in the dark so he wouldn’t see me spy-praying.

Jonathan:

The ice cream date went well, and I was interesting in spending some more time with Amanda, getting to know each other. I asked her on another date, and she said yes.

We had a nice casual first date, but I thought I should put a little more effort into this next one. I researched some fun things to do in town, and took her to do them. This date may have involved digging fake dinosaur bones, drinking vintage sodas, and eating cow tongue tacos. She may not have enjoyed those tacos, but she really enjoyed the date.

I kept asking her on dates, and she kept saying yes. They gave us a great chance to get to know each other. We really enjoyed each other’s company, and had a talk about what we wanted to do with training coming to an end and us no longer living in the same town. We decided to give an exclusive relationship a shot.

Amanda:

Summer training was coming to a rapid end and I was living in Champaign, IL and Jonathan in New York City, NY. We started “interviewing” other couples who made long-distance relationships work. Things we heard were “monthly visits” and “Skype dates 2-3 times a week” in addition to obvious check-in phone calls throughout the week.

With all their advice, we took a leap forward and said our summer goodbyes knowing we would be long-distance from there forward.

Stay tuned for next time, when we talk about growing from a tiny budding relationship to starting to have deeper discernment conversations.