Goin’ to the Chapel

We’re engaged! Hear the story of the proposal from both sides:

In Simon’s words…

A Pre-Engagement Story

On June 1, unbeknownst to Natalie, I took a trip out to her parents’ house for lunch. I had asked to have lunch with just the two of them and asked that they not tell Natalie. They provided a delicious meal and we enjoyed great conversation. After dessert, I decided it was time to ask what I had come out to ask and said, less than eloquently, “I would like to marry your daughter, and I was wondering what you thought of that.” With subdued enthusiasm, they shared their blessing and encouragement (and also thanks for keeping Natalie from heading back to Thailand a second time).

Now that I had their blessing, the next step was to get a ring. Natalie’s mom provided me with 2 rings, that Natalie has kept at their house, for a ring size. I started to research online and even looked on kijiji to see if I could find a steal of a deal. Despite my limited budget, I was able to find a beautiful ring at a significant discount, thanks to my good friend Garry at People’s. He was actually very friendly and did, in fact, help me find more than I thought I could get on my budget.

Preparing for this past Sunday had been in the works for some time now. Months, actually. I had loads of ideas, and now it was just a matter of creating a cohesive plan and tightening up the details. I recruited some good friends and am very thankful that everyone kept it a secret. As you’ll read below, she had no idea that an invitation to have breakfast with her Dad would turn into an adventure…

In Natalie’s words……

An Engagement Story

This past Sunday morning what began as a Father’s Day breakfast with my parents at their home in the country turned into much more when my boyfriend Simon carried out an elaborate plan that sent me on an adventure across Ottawa, leading me to various locations to answer a set of interview questions, and finally ending with a private concert at Gatineau Park in Quebec, where he asked me to be his wife.

When my mom pulled out the video camera at breakfast and my dad began asking me a series of questions about Simon (Do you remember the day you met? What impressed you most about him?) I took this as an opportunity to ham it up for the camera, as I love to do. My impression was that Simon had asked my parents’ permission to marry me the night before at a family dinner and they were just making sure I was certain about him, and recording it all for posterity, until…

Until my mom presented me with a gift. “But it’s Father’s Day!” I remarked. I opened the gift, which was a scrapbook from Simon called, “Songs for My Love.” (He is a gifted musician with his Masters in Classical Guitar and has written me a number of songs). The first page described that this book contained songs for each chapter of our story, and when I flipped the page I found the lyrics to the first song he wrote for me, called “What If”. My parents handed me a sheet of paper with a set of directions. Disbelief mingled with excitement as I gathered my belongings, hopped in the car, and hit the road to the city.

My first stop took me to Joel and Pac’s home. I entered their apartment to the theme song from Mission Impossible and was forced to play a game of Simon Says and answer silly questions about my relationship with Simon in a high pitched voice and a Scottish accent (all on video). I stood the test, whereupon I received lyrics to the second song he wrote for me and directions to my next location.

“Mission accomplished.”

Next I arrived at Kyle’s, whose complete aloofness regarding my presence had me doubting that this day was going to end up with a proposal (he was just acting, for the record). The following directions led me to Simon’s apartment, where his roommate Austin grilled me with the most serious questions yet.

After receiving the fourth song lyrics and directions I arrived at Pink Lake in Gatineau Park, where Simon was waiting for me with a picnic. When we finished eating he grabbed his guitar and led me deep into the woods where we found a secluded area. I sat on top of a massive, fallen tree trunk, and Simon took out his guitar and began to sing.

He played the songs that I had collected in the scrapbook and finished by pulling out a ring and asking me to marry him. I said, “Yes. Absolutely!”

How We Met

I met Simon on October 2 on my first day at a new church, just hours after declaring, “I’m not going back to Thailand! …And I’m going to have a boyfriend by Christmas.”

Transitioning to life in Canada after living in Thailand was an enormous struggle, and though I desired to flee back to Bangkok I knew it was time to settle down and make roots. I walked into The Journey, a Mennonite Brethren church that meets Sunday evenings (where Simon is an intern) to see him leading worship at the front with just his guitar. I was immediately attracted to him, which of course meant a “ring check” was in order. A quick glace at his left hand told me he was single. After church Simon invited me out to dinner with a group of young adults…for Thai food. He drove me home that night, and many Sunday nights to follow.

There was little “connection” or “chemistry” between me and Simon at the start, but that didn’t matter. What drew us together was the character we saw within one another. It was that character that gave us the confidence and wisdom to continue walking in our relationship, and as time progressed we built a foundation that grew into a deeper friendship with each passing month (not to mention a lot of chemistry!) I am so thankful to God for bringing Simon into my life and I can’t wait for all the joys and sorrows we will share together.

He is worth the risk and most definitely worth the wait!

picnic

Pre-Proposal Picnic

the betrothed

After the Proposal

the ring

The Ring

(I burned my arm last week…the bandage has nothing to do with the day!)

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Longings, Wisdom, and my Ebenezer

I Have a Secret

Sometimes I still miss Thailand.

It’s been 10 months since I’ve returned home, and within that time my life has taken on its wildest adventure yet…but I still miss the Land of Smiles from time to time.

When I look at my friend’s pictures on Facebook I miss the sights of Thailand. I miss the smells of Thailand. I miss the heat, which embraces you like a warm hug the moment you step outside. I miss the Thai people, who are unlike any I’ve ever met before, and I miss my friends, who in 6 short months gave me a glimpse of how beautiful community could be.

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But even though I miss Thailand, I wouldn’t go back. I hope that one day I can visit and proudly show off all my favourite places and people and foods, but I made a choice – and it was a good one.

Wisdom Calls Aloud in the Streets

When I came back from Thailand I decided that I wanted to make decisions based on wisdom, not emotion. Admittedly, this was new for me.

Emotion told me to go back to Thailand because transitioning to life in Canada was hard, and hard is bad. But hard doesn’t have to be bad. Hard is an opportunity to persevere and build character – which is what wisdom kept saying (in the form of my friend Jen).

And then when I met Simon, wisdom told me I’d be a fool not to get to know him more. In the beginning I was torn. I recognized the man that I had been praying for, but Thailand was still tugging at my heart.

Yet wisdom called out clearly: I had no job in Thailand. And furthermore, I had no money to get back to Thailand. In fact, I had a deficit.

So I continued to let wisdom do its thing. And now…here we are :)

Thunder Bay

Here I Raise my Ebenezer

A year ago I imagined myself flying back to Thailand right around this time – as soon as my lease was up. Instead, last week I was flying to Thunder Bay, Simon’s hometown.

We had lunch one day with Pete and his wife Alicia. Pete is the Pastor of Student Ministries at Simon’s home church. Before I met Pete I felt like I knew him, probably because Simon has told me so much about him and the impact he’s had on his life.

“Do you know what an Ebenezer is?” Pete asked us as we were eating our lunch.

“Not exactly,” we responded. We were familiar with the lyrics of the hymn sung in church, “here I raise my Ebenezer” but we never knew what it meant.

He explained that in the bible Samuel raised a stone of help to commemorate victory in battle over the Philistines. He called this stone an Ebenezer. An Ebenezer is a sign of God’s presence and faithfulness.

“Natalie is your Ebenezer,” Pete told Simon.

I’ve been reading through my old journal entries and it’s clear that Simon is also my Ebenezer. He is the embodiment of the very words I have written in my journal as a prayer to God for the man I would marry. Some of these prayers – word for word – have also shown up in the lyrics of the songs that Simon has written for me.

Freaky? Spooky? Farfetched?

Or perhaps, just a sign of God’s presence and faithfulness and delight in writing good stories for his children.

It’s true – sometimes I still miss Thailand. But longing for Thailand isn’t a bad thing, because that longing is what reminds me of my “stone of help” and is what brought me to my Ebenezer.

Are You a Friendgirl?

A couple weeks ago I read an article called Your Friendgirl Deserves Better. The article addresses what I find to be the single-most frustrating dynamic occurring in our culture and generation between men and women…when it comes to dating.

Yes, a much-anticipated dating post has returned.

What’s a Friendgirl, you ask?

She’s the girl who’s “just friends” with the guy she spends way too much time with. She puts all her hope in the possibility that one day he will fall in love with her while he enjoys the ego boost and the emotional satisfaction that comes from hanging out with a girl who is merely a friend.

Guys, do you have a Friendgirl?

Here are some clues indicating that you might (taken from the article):

  • You know she’s interested, but you figure that as long as you don’t kiss her, she will understand that the relationship is platonic.
  • People ask if you’re dating her, and you act surprised every time.
  • You’ve had to sheepishly explain that she’s “like a sister” to you.
  • You think that defining the relationship means passively aggressively hinting that you’re not into her.
  • When she calls you, you hang out with her if it’s convenient.
  • When you call her, she drops everything to be with you.
  • You justify continuing to hang out with her — despite being uninterested — because, well, you never know, maybe an attraction will eventually develop

Okay, now don’t think I’m solely placing blame on the men here, because women definitely have to take responsibility in this too. First, they need to understand their value and worth. Why on earth would you let yourself be a convenient “buddy” to a guy (waste of time!) when somewhere out there is a true man who is genuinely interested in knowing your heart and pursuing you?

Well, here’s why:

[A woman’s] heart is vulnerable. Part of the reason it’s vulnerable is that she’s uniquely, beautifully female; and another reason is that culturally, she’s expected to wait for a man to initiate. As her patience grows thin, she’s more susceptible to believing a man is pursuing her when all he really wants is a friendgirl to stroke his affirmation-starved ego.

So why is this topic so frustrating to me? First, because I’ve seen so many of my friends settle for less when they deserve so much more. They hold on hope that their best friend is going to fall in love with them and they are willing to wait as long as it takes for this to happen. Their tunnel vision doesn’t allow them to see that there could be a good man out their who is interested.

Guys, just so you know, subtle clues don’t work! You have to be direct, but not only that, you have to stop selfishly spending time with these women and stealing away parts of their heart that belong to their future husband. Because whether you believe it or not, yes, they are giving it away to you.

Another reason this bothers me so much is because I think it demonstrates lack of character of behalf of men. If they understood how precious a woman’s heart is then they wouldn’t run it through the gamut like that. They would respect their sisters and desire to keep her heart in one piece for the man that she will give it to. And if you know it’s not you, don’t let her give it to you!

Set your standards high

I can say in all truth and thankfulness that I have never been a Friendgirl. Okay, maybe I was once, in sixth grade. But at that age all it took to mend my broken heart was a trip to the mall.

I’ve never been a Friendgirl because long ago I decided if a man wants to know me he’s going to have to step away from what has become our cultural norms and pursue me. No, I won’t go over to your place and play video games. No, I won’t grab a bite to eat when you ask me on a whim. No, I won’t give up my time to be with you hoping that when you say “hang out” you mean “go on a date.”

Some people might chastise me for taking such a stance, and others have even told me that I should be the one to initiate these things if I am interested in someone. And you also might wonder what the harm is in hanging out with a guy friend if things are completely platonic on your end. Well, here’s why: because there is such a thing as a Friendboy, too.

It’s worth the wait

As someone who has recently experienced pursuit – and not middle-school pursuit, not boyish pursuit, but the pursuit of a godly man of character – I can honestly say that it is absolutely worth the wait. And not only that, but I believe that every woman should and can be pursued the way I was. So ladies, don’t short-change yourselves!

A couple of weeks after we started dating, my boyfriend thanked me for the way that I conduct myself. He said that my values when it comes to dating and the opposite sex made his pursuit of me simple and straightforward. He knew that I wasn’t the type of girl who spends time alone with other guys. And that said a lot. It created clarity. And it also attracted a man like him to a woman like me.

There is a vast difference between being a Friendgirl and being pursued. The Friendgirl is anxious. She analyzes every comment that comes out of her buddy’s mouth. She is always doing, always striving, and she becomes the initiator.

The one being pursued merely responds. And what a release that is! I’m just myself. I’m not acting this way or that way to get you to like me or notice me. Your pursuit tells me you are interested, and as we get to know what another I can discern with wisdom whether or not I continue to respond to your pursuit.

And wouldn’t you have it…wisdom said, “HECK YES!”

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

It all comes down to respect. That’s what I think at least. Men, respect your sisters. Because that’s what she is if she’s not your girlfriend/fiance/wife. Women, respect yourself, and in doing so you’re also respecting the male species. How so? Because you’re teaching all those boys out there to dig a little bit deeper, work a little bit harder, and grow into men of character.

Grow Up!

Every time I log onto WordPress.com a banner across the top of the dashboard tells me “Be the master of your own domain! Buy http://www.livingwithmyparents.me (.com is taken) for just $24 a year!”

To which I say NO.

I don’t want to blog here anymore!

I want to grow up!

I want to be an adult!

I want to stop living like I’m stuck and move on.

I recently read this article by The Office‘s Mindy Kaling called Why You Need a Man, Not a Boy*. And I was like, Amen! I want a man!

But then I thought…am I even a woman?

I hope to be by this Friday.

*Don’t worry, I don’t generally glean my dating advice from Glamour magazine. This article was recommended to me by a friend.

Why More is Less

If you have never heard of Barry Schwartz then I suggest you check out “The Paradox of Choice.” If you have the time, watch this YouTube video. It’s called Why More is Less. Believe me – you’ll be glad you did!

Schwartz argues that instead of making us freer, choice paralyzes us. Instead of making us more fulfilled, choice leaves us dissatisfied. I can definitely relate.

Here’s a simple example: There’s a food loft in Bangkok where I would eat with my friends occasionally. Basically you can walk around the entire restaurant and choose from any type of food from several different countries.

I used to wander around that restaurant forever, overwhelmed by the choice I had. I wanted to make sure I’d pick something that I’d really love, considering I had so many options.

I remember one night in particular choosing Dal, an Indian dish. As soon as I sat down and started eating it I immediately regretted my decision. It was good but it wasn’t great, and considering I had so many choices, I kept wondering if I missed out on something better.

This happens in our everyday decisions, from what we buy to where we work…and who we marry.

In the video (around 05:40) Schwartz, a professor, says that he assigns 20% less work than he used to because his students are preoccupied with the question “Should I get married?”

The questions continue.

“Now? Later? When? WHO? Should I have kids first or a career first?” Etc., etc.

I found this particular part of the video interesting because it reminded me of a conversation I had with a friend last month. She was telling me about a guy friend who recently went on a date with a woman in her early 30s.

When my friend asked her guy friend if he was going to take the girl out again, he just didn’t know. Sure, she was a great girl; there was nothing wrong with her. She was intelligent, pretty, fun, came from a good family…

“So what’s the problem?” My friend asked him.

“Well,” he said. “What’s she doing being 31 and single?”

Ouch.

Ladies, did your jaw drop open? Because mine did! And once I closed it again, I responded with the question, “What’s he doing being 30 (something) and single?!?”

Exactly.

(Granted, major personality flaws and neglecting to care for yourself physically are definitely reasons for men and women alike to experience prolonged singleness, however this woman possessed neither emotional nor physical “red flags.” She was merely 31 and single. Just doing her best to be patient.)

In my (humble) opinion (and I think Schwartz would agree) I think that one of the reasons I have so many incredible, amazing, wonderful friends who are in their 30s and single is because the men are overwhelmed by choice. They are so scared of choosing the wrong woman. They think because they have so many women to choose from, they should be perfectly fulfilled by the woman they choose. (Talk about pressure!) But instead of actually just choosing a woman and committing to her, they don’t make any choice at all.

And then all these incredible single ladies are victims of a stigma that says there is something wrong with them. What’s wrong is that women are staying single because men like my friend’s friend are asking such absurd questions instead of stepping into their role.*

Single people have much more choice in general. And while I think this can be good (in my own life it’s allowed me to have some unforgettable life adventures) sometimes I wish I was married simply so that my choices would be fewer, for example, where to live. Because right now I am overwhelmed by choice. Upon graduating you always hear that the world is your oyster, but until you actually step out into the world you don’t realize that you’re not actually a fan of oysters.

I know that having too much choice is detrimental. I see it in my own life as I try to determine the “right” vocation. But I honestly believe we have to stop trying to arrive at the idea of “fulfillment” and instead make good choices based on wisdom and then commit to them – and see the fruitfulness in that.

Thoughts?

*Not attacking men. I had this conversation with many guy friends who believe men need to take responsibility and I’ve even seen them do it by asking women out (and sometimes, despite rejection, again and again). Those are men who obviously know what they want and are surely going to get it at some point.

Conversations with Erin

I love Erin Z. She’s my Bangkok sister. We lived across the hall from each other on the fifth floor of Baan Bunrapa. I miss seeing her everyday.

Both of us are back in North America, adjusting to this awkward season. In a recent Skype conversation we bonded over being unemployed and single:

Me: Update me on life!

Erin: My life is “www.livingwithmyparents.wordpress.com.”

Me: Glad we can relate.

Erin: Do you know how embarrassing it is to meet guys?

Me: Yup.

Erin: ‘So what do you do?’ ‘I’m unemployed.’ ‘Where do you live?’ ‘With my parents.’

***

Erin: How are you liking your apartment?

Me: Well my roommate’s getting married so–

Erin: OMG! Your life is totally like 27 Dresses! (Not the first time she’s compared my life to the movie. Read about it here).

Me: YOU ARE SO CRUEL!!!

Erin: Everyone around you gets married!

Me: [Not pleased] Thanks Erin.

Erin: Seriously, out of all of my friends, you deserve it [marriage] the most.

Me: Aww [softened a little] …thanks Erin.