So, this past weekend was Engaged Encounter weekend. Colten and I went into it hoping to strengthen our love, respect, and understanding of each other, but not quite sure what to expect. However, that quickly changed once we had our first talk session on Friday night. The host couples explained what would be happening and how the weekend was going to work. And everyone was right ... we were only going to get out of it what we put into it. So, right away Colten and I decided to give it all we had! And we are so glad we did!!!
The way it worked was this:
One of the host couples would give a "talk" on the topic at hand. We had all of the topics and papers in a notebook so that we knew what was coming, and afterwards, we had a list of questions to answer. After their talk of the topic and how it related to their relationship with each other, one person from each couple would go to our "dialogue" room, where he or she would answer the questions honestly and completely about their relationship with their fiance. After 15 or 20 minutes, the host couple would let the other person join their fiance and discuss what each other had written. It's kind of hard to explain, but I think you get the gist of it! Anyway, the first night we did about 2 or 3 talks. And we really got a lot out of it right off the bat. Colten is not fond of always saying how he feels, so having him write it down and me read it was emotional ... and I cried during every dialogue that night. However, the time they let us write got shorter sometimes, and we couldn't always answer ALL of the questions, so we discussed a lot of them together, which worked out nicely.
Saturday was more talks and more dialogue. The topics ranged from open communication, to unity, to intimacy, to the sacrament of marriage ... and on and on. But I must admit, it got tedious to write on EVERY topic and try to get everything in that we wanted to say. And boy was I emotionally drained by Saturday night. But the host couples had planned a romantic dinner for all of the couples and it was very nice to be able to just relax and enjoy our food and company of the other couples (it was three couples to a table). After that meal, we were to go to the chapel for a prayer service. Once we all arrived, we were instructed to grab one candle per couple and sit in chairs facing our fiance. The lights were out, and there was soft music playing in the background. They came around and lit our candles, explaining that the flame was like our love. It was very romantic and emotional. They had us hold the candle in both of our hands and look each other in the eyes while they talked how "these are the hands that will hold you forever ... these are the hands that will wipe your tears away ...." and so on. I was definitely affected and was crying, but they were tears of happiness, knowing that everything the host couples were saying was true about our relationship and love for each other. When it was the guys' turn to hold our hands and look at us, Colten even got choked up! I saw him wipe away a tear or two, but he apologized for it later. I told him he was out of his mind if he thought he had to apologize. I was grateful that it had hit him emotionally too!!! I don't expect or want him to cry about things, but to know that he feels that deeply towards me is amazing :).
Sunday we had a few more talks and then went to mass in an all-cedar built church! It was breathtaking!! Everything at the Spiritual Renewal Center was made of cedar ... to the chairs, the cabins, the bunk beds, the church ... it was definitely something to experience. After mass, we ate lunch and then received our certificates and a crucifix that Father had blessed during mass. It's gorgeous!
Throughout our talks and discussions with each other about every aspect that married life is going to bring us, Colten and I made some important and hard decisions, but we both agreed on them and look forward to holding true to what we decided. It brought us so much closer to be able to write our feelings down for the other to read in private. It was so good to know what he is feeling and thinking on different and difficult subjects. In all, we grew so much closer together and we learned a lot more about each other. And we decided to definitely make God a bigger part of our lives. If it wasn't for Him, we wouldn't be where we are today and we surely wouldn't be together. It's so easy to be negative about things and not see the good things that we have, but this weekend definitely opened our eyes to God even more and see how truly blessed we are to have such a deep love for each other.
We are excited to marry in the church and include God and our families in our union. We have also come up with a few ways to make a conscious effort to include God in our everyday lives. At first, I thought Colten would be reluctant to it, but he quickly agreed. He says he is currently a twice-a-year church goer, but wants to change that. He beliefs of religion and God are there, and he is looking forward to learning more about the Catholic faith and including it in our lives together. He will be converting to Catholicism after we are married and before we have children down the road. And he has also agreed to raise our children in the Catholic church, which is very important to me. Without God in my life, I would be lost. He has brought me to many decisions and realizations that I owe Him everything ... so I know I must let Him guide me and walk down the path He has chosen for me, which I must admit, is an amazing journey! I am in such a great place in my life with school, work, internships, love ... how can I NOT be grateful?! I'm crazy happy in love and I wouldn't have it any other way. I can't wait to begin our new-found outlook on our relationship with Colten and God. Bring it on! :)