A 20-year old and a 21-year old getting married. Everyone had an opinion on this. Some thought we should wait at least three years, some as many as eight. Still, we felt the hand of the Lord moving us in the direction of getting married July 4, 2002.
Having Andrea around was a huge change for us. Rather than being on the phone, or over the Internet she was in the same house with me most of the time (she used her apartment as an outdoor bedroom). The only time we ever chatted was for a lark. She discovered that I could be a slob as well as seeing more fully how obsessive compulsive about being on time I could be. We had a lot of tears and many issues we worked out in these months. The fact that we forbade ourselves from being alone together required that many emotional issues and drama got played out in front of my family.
On the positive side, we got to share food, I could hold her, hug her, and show her love. I could bring her real flowers and not just computer-generated ones on MSN Messenger. I remember Valentines Day, when I bought her a Teddy Bear with a box of chocolates on its back, as well as a dozen roses, and then took her out to dinner, got her a manicure, and took pictures as a couple.
My dad while none too certain about the wisdom of our decision, was there for me as he always had been. He provided Andrea with meals and let her use our family's washer and dryer. He also loaned her a roll away bed to sleep on in the apartment, as well as letting her use one of our old dinette sets.
When Andrea got to Kalispell, I was working at Taco Bell. I was hoping to get on at Stream and indications were in that direction. Stream offered a Customer Service training class to help prepare for the work involved in a Call Center. Regrettably, when they offered the class, Taco Bell had me scheduled to work and wouldn't let me out of my schedule. So, I found myself having to skip training for a great job to continue my $5.70/hour fast food job. I went ahead and tendered my resignation at Taco Bell, so I wouldn't be held back from future opportunities.
Unfortunately, by the time Stream held the other Customer Service training class, they had begun to ramp down and I remained "in the pipeline" for several months waiting for another contract to open. I was nervous often that we would be unable to find work and that Andrea would have to return to Ohio.
I thought I found a job selling Kirby Vacuums, however I realized the work wasn't for me and wasn't what I was promised, so I quit having made a grand total of $10.
This was an important lesson in God's provision. As we were a couple weeks away from the rent due date, Andrea's mother received a check made out to Andrea from Ashland University. Andrea had overpaid for her college and it was being refunded in the amount of $1,000. As Pastor Terry remarked on Sunday when I testified about it, “Receiving a check from a college. That's a miracle indeed.”
This would provide Andrea with enough to make it for a couple months and God worked on the rest. I found a job tutoring an 11 year-old boy. It was only $40 a week, but it worked well with my college schedule. Andrea was hired on at a day care, being paid $6.25 an hour and working between 20-30 hours a week. Because God provided for us those months, we were able to get prepared for the wedding.
Everything was going well. At the beginning of our efforts, we had nothing. We had no dress, no wedding cake, no minister to perform the ceremony, no ceremony site, no reception site, no money, nothing at all. After cutting every corner we could, we estimated the cost of our wedding at around $2,000. It seemed impossible to reach. It all came together, however.
Andrea's mother bought the dress and the accessories. The particular dress we chose (a beautiful style from Eden Bridal) required that Andrea wear a special undergarment. So we drove down to J.C. Penney's to find it. I found myself standing in the midst of the lingerie department, feeling quite uncomfortable and out of place. I understood then how Andrea had felt so many months ago in the Center City Mall. I decided that I would rather go and check out Radio Shack, so I slowly but surely began to sneak away from the Lingerie Department and out of J.C. Penney's. Andrea, however, needed my debit card to make her purchase, so my departure was problematic. As I was close to getting out of Penney's, I heard a voice say over the Intercom, "Will Adam Graham please return to the lingerie department?" Sheepishly, I did.
As for a minister, after my church left town in October, I had begun a comprehensive church search to find a replacement place of Worship. The first place I visited was Northridge Heights Church of God. After going to more than a dozen churches, this Anderson-affiliated Church still was my favorite choice. Of the three best churches I'd found, Andrea liked this the best as well. So, we began to attend the church and got to know the pastor. We finally decided to make the church, our church home.
The pastor, Terry Harper, wanted to go through premarital counseling and get to know both of us. We spent four separate one hour sessions doing that as we talked about our views on different issues, our experience with the Lord, and our families. While I was nervous that somehow, he'd find me "unworthy" to marry Andrea and decline to perform the ceremony, he didn't.
Somehow, everything began to come together. If it required money, my parents paid for some stuff, her parents paid for others, and we paid for the rest. It all worked out.
I even obtained my parents blessing, something I wasn't sure I'd get but desperately wanted. I was so thankful that I finally received it.
However, things stopped working out as well in late April, the day after I received my parents blessing, Andrea was let go by the day care. In the long run, it was the best thing for her. The day care had basically used her. What they had really needed was another full-time teacher, a position that Andrea couldn't fill. They kept her on-call all the time. Our mornings and indeed our entire lives had to be scheduled around the arbitrary day-to-day volumes of the day care. Finally, because of state regulations, they had to let her go.
I was devastated and quite frankly scared, as once again we were in an impossible situation. So close to the wedding and it felt like the wheels were coming off. I became scared and frightened once again and once again God came through.
A local temp agency called LC Staffing came into my life. I had applied at LC Staffing several times before during the prior 4 years and gotten nowhere. This time, however, when I was in the office applying, I was offered a filing test and sent out to do a filing job for an insurance company. Unfortunately, I found that the filing involved organizing 30 pound boxes into neat stacks. The job was supposed to take five days and I ended up doing it in two. For my efficiency, I lost three days pay, but I did a good job and that was what mattered. The only other job I got through LC Staffing was a four hour training at the Airport learning to check tickets. I never ended up actually working there.
Andrea, meanwhile ended up getting a job that was originally offered to me as a dishwasher at an assisted living center. She'd work while other employees were going on vacation. I, meanwhile got a job at Lee Newspapers, working in the Newspapers in Education program. It didn't pay much, but it did pay the bills and allow us to get married.
Our Wedding Story
It was a perfect day in July, 2002. Andrea and I got up just after the sun and took our morning prayer walk and Bible study. She was going to have her hair put up for the wedding, so it would look right with her bridal veil. After the walk, I drove down to the Dollar Store to pick up a bottle of mouthwash. I was extremely nervous and while waiting for the Dollar Store to open, jumped up and down anxiously, to burn off the energy.
When I got home, I changed into my suit. I was so lucky to have my brother, Josh as my best man. For some reason, that Joshua decided that we were Mafiosos and spoke to me in a "Wise Guy" accent and called me "Vito". Somehow, his antics calmed me down as we got ready for the wedding.
At the wedding site, I nervously awaited the arrival of everyone from the pastor, the van carrying my parents as well as Andrea. When Pastor Terry arrived, Josh, I, and he made our official entrance. We were followed by the flower girls and then Andrea, who was accompanied down the aisle by both of her parents. We didn't have an organist, so we used a CD player to provide the music. Andrea and her parents were struggling with her dress and I was nervous she wasn't even going to make it before the CD switched to some '50s romance song. She did, however and when I looked over at her, I was awestruck. With no make-up or fancy jewelry, she was glorious. It was like staring at beauty personified. Every day, Andrea is beautiful; that day, she was stunning.
Pastor Terry led us in exchanging our vows. The ceremony was appropriately sacred as we promised to follow the scriptures in our marriage. I also read Andrea a poem I'd written for her for the occassion of our wedding. You can read it if you like.
After this, Josh committed the "wedding blooper" that comes with every ceremony. This occurred when I asked Josh for the ring and instead of handing me Andrea's ring, he handed me mine. I said as nicely as I could, "Wrong ring, Josh." Sheepishly, he handed me the right ring and I placed it on her finger. Once she had placed the ring on my finger and the vows were exchanged, I heard the words I'd longed to her for so many months, "I now pronounce you husband and wife. Adam, you may now kiss your bride."
Andrea and I leaving the ceremony.
A Time for Healing
The reception was the second happiest event in my life. There, I got to spend time with family and friends as we celebrated our marriage. Andrea's parents paid for the appetizers and my dad bought more than a dozen bottles of non-alcoholic wine to toast our new marriage.
We danced together for the first (and only) time in public. We also resolved not to be like most modern couples who intentionally mess up each other's face and clothing by shoving the cake into the other's face. We didn't have to try, we did it entirely by accident.
I open up wide as Andrea feeds me some cake
Joshua, my Dad, and I perform "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" at the Reception
For both Andrea and I, our new marriage presented us with new opportunities for a better relationship with our fathers. It all began at the ceremony. Prior to the marriage, we each related to our fathers in a parent-child relationship. When I turned eighteen, my father tried to treat me more and more like a man. His efforts were appreciated but not entirely successful. As long as I was in his house, we wouldn't be able to relate as men because of the different stations. Since the wedding, we've communicated better and shown more respect one to another.
Dad was the master toaster on that day as he rose up to toast our new marriage. With flare and obvious love and pride in his eyes, he proposed a toast, using a modified version of "The Irish Prayer". Through punishments and arguments that come with being a child, it's easy to lose sight of the fact that our parents really do love us. I know that and I pray I'll never forget it again.
While my dad and I had our problems, our relationship was great when compared to that of Andrea and her father. For years, she'd been avoiding him and had a lot of pain and anger from issues she'd dealt with during her childhood days. At first, he'd refused to give his blessing and been quite rude about it when I asked.
My conduct hadn't been perfect either, but I was still angry at her father. When Carrie suggested that Andrea dance with her father at the wedding, I vetoed the idea. I felt insulted by his refusal (as he felt insulted by my not asking before she left Columbus). I wasn't going to let someone who had done that to me dance with my wife on my wedding day.
However, between my dad and Andrea's mom, they managed to talk him into giving his blessing and walking Andrea down the aisle. I, of course dropped my opposition to the dance.
At the wedding, after we danced, I offered him the chance to dance with Andrea to Bob Carlisle's song, "Butterfly Kisses". As he heard the words, a man I'd often considered hard as rock began to tear up as Andrea softly sang the words. At the end he rested his head on her shoulder cried and said, "I love you, pumpkin."
I realized how selfish I'd been in opposing the dance and was thankful that he had been able to dance with her, because both Andrea and her father needed that dance to begin healing their relationship.
At the end of the reception, we opened our presents. Amongst them, we found towels, cookware, and cash to build our life together. We then said farewell to our family and drove to home to spend the first day of our honeymoon before spending ten days at the Bend Guard Station outside of Thompson, Falls, MT.
That's all there is to it, I guess. There's probably grander stories, and certainly better storytellers. Still, I wouldn't trade my story for any other. It's as unique as Andrea and I are. And if there's anything we are, we're certainly unique.
We didn't do everything perfect or by the book. Many Christian experts tell us that it's important to marry someone who is from the same church as you and only proceed when you first have firm parental blessing. In both of our cases, this was quite impossible. In my church, the only single female present was the pastor's daughter and before I could consider anything, I'd have needed to wait eleven years until she turned eighteen!
In addition to this, Andrea and I were both introverts. We have very few friends and tend to be shy and reserved. Many books assume that everyone is an extrovert and has a ton of friends to keep and relationships to balance. Andrea and I remain each other's best friends and will continue as such until the day we die.
Some rules provided by ministers and books are general rules that will work for most people but some people aren't most people. Some people are different and live under different circumstances and situations. It's important to adapt these general relationship rules to your own life.
Never in the Bible are specific rules given for courting or dating. Never are procedures outlined except that we are to avoid fornication. In our relationship as well as others which I've witnessed, I've found the following principles are important:
1) Make Christ the Center of Your Life: Nothing else matters if you don't get this one right.
2) Avoid the dating scene: Simply put, when you get out with a member of the opposite sex, just the two of you, it sets you up for temptation. At worst, you could end up committing fornication with someone you don't even care that much about, at best, you can end up giving your heart away a lot. The constant dating cycle of breaking up and finding another one sets a bad precedent for marriage. As well, you're throwing yourself, your life, and your resources into a relationship that will go nowhere.
3) Look towards possibility of marriage: In any pre-marital romance relationship, it's important for the Christian to be focused on the possibility of marriage. If you can't imagine yourself walking down the aisle with Mr. or Ms. Right, don't get involved with them. If you do get involved, make the goal of the relationship to prayerfully investigative the possibility of marriage. Investigate and pray and then act accordingly.
4) Limit Physical Contact before commitment: If you're not committed to someone, don't give them signs of affection that should be reserved for your spouse. (i.e. kissing, etc.) I found this the hard way with Andrea. While we didn't kiss on the lips during our courting period, we decided that a few little kisses on the forehead and cheek wouldn't kill anybody. Well, what it did for me is increased my reactions as Andrea's kisses to the cheek became more passionate. We made a key mistake in starting that kissing there because we were giving affection that we shouldn't have and complicating an already complicated situation.
Simply put if there is not a hard and fast commitment to get married, don't kiss. What levels of affection to show during engagement is really an issue that a couple needs to decide for themselves based on their own needs and conscience. It's important to remember that just because a couple's engaged doesn't mean they're allowed to commit fornication or do things that would give an appearance of evil. The minimal rule to follow is that if it involves removing clothes, you shouldn't do it.
After being engaged and now married, I've discovered the power of physical affection between a man and a woman. When we show affection one for another, we are, in fact giving parts of ourselves away. We shouldn't do that unless we're certain that we're going to marry the person we're giving ourselves to.
5) Don't be unequally yoked: It's important that you only have romantic relationships with believers and not non-Christians. The Bible's very clear on that. (See 2. Cor. 6:14). What Dr. Laura calls "interfaithless" marriages can become nightmares for you as well as for the children involved. Don't do it!
It's also important that whoever you marry, be on the same spiritual level as you and come from a similar tradition as you. If someone's serious about their faith, they shouldn't marry a Sunday-morning Christian. They'll clash and it will harm the marriage.
The same thing holds true for members of certain traditions marrying one another. For example, a Greek Orthodox woman marrying a Baptist man is going to cause conflict as would a Catholic woman marrying a Pentecostal man. On the other hand, a Wesleyan could easily marry a Nazarene and a member of the Church of God (Cleveland) could marry a member of the Assembly of God. Andrea (Baptist-Pentecostal-Non-Denominational) and I (Pentecostal-Messianic Jewish-Non-Denominational) matched up about as well as could be expected given our backgrounds.
6) No timetables: Entering a relationship, set no timetables or rules that don't leave room for God's will. As I found out, God has a way of changing our timetables if we get too set in them. Let God work His Perfect Will in your life.
Life with Andrea has been great, although it hasn't been all romance or an entirely smooth road. We still have a lot to learn, but we're learning together and growing together. Some days, we clash over issues of great importance such as in what position the toilet seat belongs. Still, we manage to love each other and make it through the day by God's grace as well as a good sense of humor.
A little more than two years ago, a divine appointment brought us together. As iron sharpens iron, we have sharpened each other and challenged each other in the Lord. While, we're not perfect, we are seeking Him and being conformed to him, more and more every day.
God said in His word, "It's not good for man to be alone,". Implied in that is that it is good for a man and a woman to be together. As with the rest of His Word, I've found this to be true.