As I recently tossed out my 2013 calendar and proudly posted my 2014 calendar, I stood back and admired those four simple digits that hold an overabundance of promise – 2-0-1-4, the year I get married.
It’s amazing to think that my CatholicMatch fiance, George, and I have been engaged for more than six months and that our wedding is now this year and this October. As the big day slowly but steadily approaches, our excitement is growing nearly as fast as our to-do list.
One of those necessary tasks for me was to go through the stack of boxes in my parent’s basement labeled with “Jessica” in permanent black marker. Post-college, I quickly sorted through the storage tubs and moving boxes that hold years of memories, swiftly tossing some items in a donate pile and others directly in the trash. But now, as my Mom always reminded me, those boxes will move with me after I say “I do.”
This past holiday season, I revisited that stack of boxes on the floor of my bedroom at my parent’s home. With every opened box, I discovered pieces of my past—elementary school photo albums, middle school notes, high school yearbooks and college graduation programs. Each item held a distinct memory, all serving as stepping stones to my time on CatholicMatch and now my time as an engaged woman.
As I dove deeper into an especially packed box, I discovered a tightly-bound stack of letters, cards and emails. Later that night in my apartment, I removed the rubber band and read through months of correspondence from my most significant relationship pre-George. By lamp light, I read every word, allowing myself to be transported to a different time filled with different worries and different hopes. I laughed as I read through cheesy love letters that seemed romantic years ago, and I cried as I read through letters laced with frustration and anger as our relationship ended. It was like stepping into a novel that I had already read where all of a sudden, I was the main character again.
But just as quickly as I stepped into that storyline, I happily stepped back out to return to the present day where my life now overflows with more joy and love than I knew was possible during those early years. I thought I knew what love was and what it would take to create a faith-filled life with someone, but clearly, I had more to learn.
I know many people feel nostalgic as they close the door on a significant chapter in life, and as I approach a very blessed new beginning, I, too, am looking back at the closed doors, the opened windows and the guided, holy path that led me to places I never expected, including CatholicMatch. I never envisioned online dating as a part of my love story, but now I’m 250 days away from taking the last name of a strong, loving, Catholic man that asked me to be his wife.
Whether you’ve been on CatholicMatch for a few weeks or a few years, always reminder that all of our experiences—expected or unexpected—make us who we are and silently point us down the path that God has laid out for each of us. Each day, month and year and each date, relationship and breakup shapes us and forms us for the forever relationship that we all desire. Don’t ever regret where you’ve come from and what you’ll bring to your relationship with your future spouse because of your experiences and what you’ve learned.
As I finished reading that stack of letters and purposefully placed them in the recycling bin, I smiled as I remember the younger version of me and what I defined as “happy.” If only I had known, which God knew all along, about the exponential happiness that waited just around the corner.