As we prepare for marriage, I have been reflecting lately on the many ways I have grown and changed since you came into my life. I have put some of my thoughts together and what I have come to recognize is the many, many things you have taught me and helped me to remember. You began to teach me on the day we met.
This was the first meal we shared. You taught me about Dutch food. You were very kind as you led me, a clueless American girl, through a menu made of a bunch of jumbled up letters in order to help me pick something I would like.
In those first times we spent together, you began to teach me how to follow. I had to follow you around in an entirely new country and let someone else lead me rather than figure everything out for myself and be in control. That was a challenge but you led me well and made me feel comfortable being the one who wasn't in control of where I was going or what I would do next. You have never stopped leading me since.
After I met you and had to go home, by your total faith in God's providence I learned to trust God more. You taught me that there are good men in this world who love their Catholic faith. I had lost faith that there were men out there to date who loved those things like I do. You showed me that above all else you wanted to lead me closer to God and suggested we pray a rosary together every week. So I prayed yours that you had given to me…
And you prayed mine that I had given you.
There was not much that could prepare us for the waiting. So we learned to wait together.
And when I came back to see what God's crazy plan was for us, you taught me what it is to pursued by a real man. On our first date you planned a private tour of the Basilica I fell in love with on my first trip there. We went to the Onze Lieve Vrouw Basilica and we were let into the shrine room for a brief moment and we kneeled on this kneeler together and you led us in a decade of the rosary because I was too moved and crying too hard to say anything. Thank you for getting us through that one.
You took me to Amsterdam early on, and we went on train rides like this one together and you let me know that it was okay to just be me. That you liked me for me and that was who you wanted to get to know. So we were us together.
You reminded me to take in every moment and that everything is a celebration, every moment is a cause for joy. You planned a trip to Paris and when we got into France you got off the freeway and pulled the car over in the closest parking lot so that we could celebrate my first steps ever in France with some swing dancing. In these moments you helped me remember my joy that had been crushed by a lot of tough events in my life. Thank you.
You taught me how important St. Michael would be for us. And he certainly has been our great defender.
One evening we decided to run up the stairs to the Eiffel Tower, and you taught me to just keep on going, even if that meant slowly because of my asthma. You let me take my time, and in doing so taught me that sometimes slow and steady is the way we need to get places and to reach our goal...that if I reach my end goal that is the most important thing of all.
When we went to the Shrine of the Miraculous Medal, you taught me about creativity and finding creative ways to make things happen. They would not let me in because I was wearing shorts, so you told me to make a skirt out of the dolphin blanket. And it worked. I would have just walked away otherwise.
Later on that year, we were in Santa Barbara and we rented a tandem bicycle. You were great at being in the front. I was not. I nearly crashed badly a few times and almost took a few other people out, and I told you I was getting off the bike and you were going to be in the front again.
And you would not let me give up. You told me I was going to try and try again until I got it. And eventually I did. And you helped me remember that life is never, ever, ever about giving up.
We have had some very, very hard days. And in them you taught me new lessons about forgiveness and about teamwork and pushing through.
And I kept having to leave and you kept teaching me to trust what God was doing.
You have taught me more about sacrificing than can be put into words. You have shown me by your actions that you know well and deep that love requires great sacrifice. Like the times you have spent Christmases in California instead of Holland so we could spend them together.
I have been uncool and nerdy my entire life. You have not been uncool or nerdy a day in your life. You let me sing loudly and dance around, and sometimes my wildness has been embarrassing for us all but you let me be me anyway. You have helped me to learn to just love every facet of my personality and to forget all the mean things that people have said about me.
Yes, and you kept having to leave, too, and we held on together and you did not waver.
And when we were together again, you taught me about our roles in the tasks of gardening we must do every weekend in Holland. I get to pick up chestnuts like a lady and you get to stand in trees and cut them like a man.
You taught me that when it comes to being pursued, I am and will always be worth going above and beyond for. When I asked for a picnic on this last night of this particular trip, you pulled out all the stops to make sure it was the best picnic ever. You have taught me that I deserve to be continually pursued and that I will never deserve anything less than the best.
You have truly taught me how to be light hearted and let things go. Over our hundreds of FaceTime and Skype calls you helped me to remain cheerful through everything. You taught me that a cheerful heart is what brings glory to God. You have brought joy to the lives of everyone around you by your spirit and reminded me that life is not meant to be taken too seriously and that the more you joke around and walk around whistling, the better everything becomes.
You have helped me in countless ways to become more faithful, more cheerful, more trusting, stronger, braver, and more dedicated. I know you will continue to teach me many things as we press forward in this great gift of life God has given us. Thank you for being one of the great men in this world who chooses virtue, faith, love, and sacrifice. Thank you for the lessons up until now...thank you in great advance for all I will learn through you and your joyful heart in the years to come.