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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.


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!!!


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.


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!)


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?”


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.


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!


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!)


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.


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.


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.

Little Happies: Wedding Festivities

June 23, 2014

We are back from our trip to Omaha and it was one heck of a jammed packed and fun week.

The primary reason we were in town was for my cousin’s wedding. Leading up to the big day we had several shindigs with out of town relatives. We also were given the task of providing a few deserts for a mini-desert bar at the wedding.

The easiest way to throw these Little Happies together is just to do a photo collage from the week. Here you go:


lighteningA Severe Thunderstorm rolled through Omaha this past week while we were at a family barbecue.

Naturally many of us gathered in the open garage to be spectators of the hail, wind, rain, and lightening. The bolts were getting closer and closer to our location…so close that one intense and blinding bolt struck a nearby house!!! It was a serious rush of adrenaline for all and the house was fine with minimal exterior damage.

About that time Jonathan ran inside to get the camera and snapped the above photo. BEAUTIFUL and TERRIFYING right? Truly a wonder of nature!


Directly after the rain storm was a nearby Fireworks show.

Since Jonathan already had the camera out…he snagged this photo.

Getting excited for the Fourth of July! 🙂



The mini desert bar! 🙂

This was a lot of fun and a good portion of our time this week. My mother, grandmother, Jonathan, the Bride’s Mother and I were the busy bees working on various deserts while my Aunt Denise was the creative genius behind the decor.

There were various flavored mini cupcakes, white-chocolate covered oreos and pretzels, lemon bars, carmel apple bars, and brownies. Not to mention there was a three-tiered gorgeous cake these all were complementing.

As you can see in the photos – Jonathan more or less took charge of the desert bar both in making the items and in setting them out and frosting. His love of creating and making things really kicked in and the rest of us were shooed away while he entered his zone.



A pre-wedding photo shoot with my parents. We don’t get many family photos together so we took advantage of everyone being dressed up.

Of course, Jonathan and I had to slip some goofy faces in.



Jeff & Caitlin’s Wedding!!

We snapped some pics from the ceremony. It really was beautiful outside – one day after that severe thunderstorm!

My brother was the best man, so of course, we had to get a shot of him all snazzed up.



The reception was right indoors from the wedding, which was really convenient! We snapped some pics from a few of the special moments from the night as well as some silly ones.

I grabbed a photo of Jonathan playing with the kids…since he is really just a big kid himself and I love him for it. I also snagged a pic of my younger cousin who found an afro and proceeded to run around in it for a while.



Photo Booth!

At our wedding we had one of these photo booths but I never made it in there the whole night. It was a serious regret on my behalf.

I guess to make up for it, we took lots of photo booth pics for the Bride and Groom that hopefully leave a smile on their faces for years to come.


Remember that CRAZY wedding contest?

September 7, 2012

I know this post is probably way overdo, as Jonathan and I have been married for nearly 10 months now but I wanted to show some of the pics from the wedding day and also show off the AMAZING services we won via the Omaha WOWT fairytale wedding contest. The station didn’t do any follow-up to really give any great advertisement to the wonderful vendors who donated their time and services, so I figured this would be a way to get their names out there in addition to sharing some pictures from the day.

I won’t even get into the complexities of that contest…many of you were there to watch us win…twice. I could write a whole blog on that contest…It was perhaps one of the most disorganized contests in News Station history! The poorly executed contest does NOT reflect on the vendors. We feel very blessed to have won this contest and it’s THANKS TO YOU who voted along the way!

The Flowers – All Seasons Floral http://allseasonsfloral.org/

The bridesmaids flowers were gorgeous fall colors that were so pretty to look at. They went well with the navy blue dresses the gals wore. My flowers were personal favorites – roses and lilies. I wrapped a rosary around the bouquet to have a reminder of Our Lady present with us.


The Videographer/DJ/Photobooth – Complete Music http://www.cmusic.com/

We had so much fun with the people we worked with at Complete Music & Video in Omaha! Our videographer took film throughout the entire day from morning till evening. We ended up getting to see a “same-day-edit” just after dinner at our reception…which was so cool! The day seemed like it went by in a flash, so seeing that it was really real on film made the day very special. We have been able to watch it even after the wedding has passed! We loved our Photobooth…we still laugh at the pictures family and friends took with those costumes! Our DJ was awesome…so full of energy and kindness. He really set a good tone at the reception and made it an atmosphere that was fun, relaxed, and comfortable. I don’t think I saw the dance floor empty…ever.

The Dessert – Jones Brothers Cupcakes http://www.jonesbroscupcakes.com/

Although I never tasted one of their cupcakes at the wedding ( I did when we went in to taste-test), people raved about the cupcakes at our wedding. Jones Brothers contributed about half of the cupcakes eaten at our wedding in addition to our lovely cake and cupcakes done my Aunt. The strawberry was my personal favorite from Jones Bros…delicious!


 The Dress – Bridal Details aka A Bridal Boutique http://www.abridalboutique.net/

My dress was designed just the way I had wanted a dress…and yes I had the idea BEFORE Kate Middleton walked down the aisle! 🙂 I desired a classic dress that was modest and something that made me feel like I was going to get married, not to prom! I feel like so many wedding dresses now-a-days are distracting, immodest, or gaudy. I was thrilled when this Bridal shop was willing to work with me in designing the dress I had in mind. Margie was unafraid to get creative and think “out-of-the-box”. We basically combined two different dresses and morphed them into one…I felt like a princess! However, I did love my dress, but there were a few hick-ups along the way with this Bridal shop. There were miscommunications about additional expenses I had incurred and most importantly a flower girl dress that was the WRONG one I ordered, about 8 sizes too big for the flower girl, and it had been worn and was dirty. This was two days before the wedding, mind you. We kept our cool and by God’s grace a neighbor of the flower girl’s re-sized the dress, Bridal Details did steam clean the dress so it was able to be worn. In the end though I was still charged for that dress and never saw a refund. So, despite my LOVE for the actual dress and their creativity…I am disappointed by their business practices.

The Tuxedos – Gentlemen’s Choice http://www.omahatuxedos.com/

The Groom, Groomsmen, Ushers, and Father’s of Bride and Groom all got a tux for the wedding from Gentlemen’s Choice! They all looked sharp as tacks! 🙂 Apparently they were so classy and comfortable that the men decided to have a pre-wedding bed-jumping session! This is only one act of spontaneity and joy that makes me loves Jonathan so much! He’s the better half, for sure.


 The Transportation – Jone-Z Party Bus https://www.partybusomaha.com/

This may have been Jonathan’s favorite element of the day…besides get married of course! We had a Party Bus for our joint bachelor/bachelorette party the night prior to the wedding. It was stocked with neon lights, fun music, and seats that were perfect for mixing and mingling aboard a bus! We had another Party Bus pick us up after the wedding and transport around while we took photos and ended up at the reception. We had a lot of fun with friends and family aboard the bus…and if you remember from the WOWT video, this was Jonathan’s number one attraction to win the contest! 🙂

There were details and vendors from the day that were not included in the winnings of the wedding contest but they deserve a shout-out as well!

The Dinner – A Catered Affair http://www.acateredaffairomaha.com/

Kathy and her team ROCK! We loved the food at our wedding and their professional service and kindness. Jonathan still thinks about the chicken…I still think about the jicama salad. They were willing to work with our budget and even go above and beyond in various details. Kathy was a team player with all the other vendors at the reception, making sure that she knew what was going on with the night and helping the event flow well. I really appreciate her efforts!

The Photographers – The Moment it Clicks Photography http://www.momentitclicksphotography.com/

Jared and Holly are wonderful people who we were blessed to have shot pics on our wedding day. They are such a happy and joyful couple that made the wedding day great! Their work is remarkable and very creative. We highly recommend them!

The Drinks – Cornhusker Beverage http://www.cornhuskerbeverage.com/

I didn’t even have a drink that night other than the water that was at my table…just never got to the bar! Their company was so easy to work with and they bought back any drinks that were unused from the night. They did such a good job estimating drinks based on our guest list though, I don’t even know if there was much to buy back from us.

The Venue – St. Robert’s Mainelli Center http://www.stroberts.com/

We loved working with Dick Bene at the St. Robert’s reception hall. He was nothing but kind, helpful, and encouraging. We also loved having the reception just next door to a Catholic Church. Jesus Christ is truly present body, blood, soul, and divinity in the Holy Eucharist and so it was like Jesus was at our reception with us! St. Roberts’ has a chapel where the Eucharist is available for adoration at all times, so we were able to jump in and pray for a while before the reception began. A true highlight from the night!

The Honeymoon – Unforgettable Honeymoons http://www.unforgettablehoneymoons.com/

We booked a 10 day Honeymoon to Cancun, Mexico through this travel group and it was all well organized and done smoothly! Heather made sure to take care of any concern we had and dealt directly with the hotel (Excellence Playa Mujeres) on any of our requests. Unfortunately a hurricane decided to join us in Mexico…so it wasn’t the Honeymoon of beach relaxation that I was hoping for! We had a couple days of sun and we had so many adventures in the jungles near Cancun. I’d love to go back and redo the whole trip someday…not in hurricane season though.

Wow. That was a LOT of information. Hopefully the businesses are happy for the free advertisement from this blog. I feel badly they didn’t receive any from WOWT. If anyone is planning a wedding, hope this helps!