I always used to wonder just how people knew they’d found “the one.” This is so silly, but I remember watching the O.C. in 7th grade and hearing Lauren Conrad say, “When you find the one, you don’t have to think about it… you just know.” HA. As if I wouldn’t think deeply and second guess and question myself repeatedly about the person I was going to MARRY! It might just be me, but my brain never shuts off. I thought Lauren Conrad’s advice was the truth. That my heart would “just know.” In a weird, backwards way, I can see how that might be true… when we’re having a good day. But relationships aren’t perfect. Especially when you’ve been in one for a while. You DO have to think about it! You should question if this is the person for you. So if Lauren Conrad was wrong… how did I figure out that Justin was the guy I wanted to marry and spend the rest of my life with?

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Justin was my best friend before we started dating. This sounds really dramatic, but at times, he was my ONLY friend… my soul fell in love with him long before my heart did. I was drawn to his goofy sense of humor, his authenticity, his compassion, and his fun-loving spirit. He could make me laugh like no one else could… and he looked at me with a sense of innocent wonder and curiosity in his eyes like I was a mystery to be solved, a story he wanted to hear more of. And we had so much fun together, being silly, going out on dates, and experiencing the first time that either of us had done this whole REAL “boyfriend girlfriend” thing. It was young love.

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But we’re also human. We’re sinners. We’re imperfect, and what was once a magnetic force of attraction becomes fragile little strings that can so easily break and allow everything to go crashing down. When you know someone for years and then start dating them as their best friend… walls that are normally there in the beginning of dating relationships just don’t exist. We argued. A lot. That “infatuation stage” people talk about? Yea, I think we might have had that for six months before things got real. In the photo above, we are arguing about fishing. I had just come back from a week long fishing trip at a fishing resort in Minnesota (fishing land) so I was clearly the fishing queen, and Justin wasn’t baiting his line right, so naturally that started a normal length argument of about 8 minutes consisting of me starting to wonder if I was dating the absolute most stubborn (and stupid) person on Earth. That sounds beyond harsh for a “Wedding Wednesday” post… but it’s real life! At least it is for us! I KNOW we aren’t the only couple who argues… so I’m not ashamed or embarassed to be real here. The world raised me to believe that the guy I would marry should be perfect in every way: perfect hair, perfect clothes, perfect abs, be a perfect romantic date night planner, a perfect poet, a perfect songwriter, a perfect Sunday breakfast maker, and of course, have perfect fishing skills. I obviously knew that this was probably an unrealistic standard, so I lowered the bar to allow room for imperfection on one or two categories. Ohh, how God has a way of teaching you how life really is in the most shocking and beautiful way!

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In a strange way, I think we kind of experienced the initial shock that many newlywed couples go through of realizing this whole “my partner isn’t perfect” thing BEFORE we were married. Our second and third years were the hardest in our relationship. There was a lot of learning about each other, how *not* to push buttons, how to choose our battles and just leave some things that bother us about the other alone. As time went on, we argued less and less because we began to learn the WHY behind each argument… and we also did a lot of growing up. By the three year mark, I was head over heels in love with Justin. That I knew (and still know)! But was he meant to be my HUSBAND?!? Was he “the one” God had intended for me to marry? How could I know for SURE? In my heart of hearts I knew since I was 16 years old that I wanted to marry Justin. I knew that life with him would be a life full of adventure, tickle fights, and late night silliness… of inside jokes, sushi + a movie dates, and a passion for serving others. I knew that sharing my life with him would provide all of these things because I knew his heart. After spending hundreds of hours together at school, in his car, at his house, my house, his brother’s house, at work, at the firehouse, on a cruise ship in the middle of the Caribbean Sea and a senior citizen home in Woodbridge, I knew Justin. I knew who he was at his best and who he was at his worst. And the highs were so totally and completely worth the lows. The joy that came from one good day with him overshadowed the 10 minute argument we’d have on the way home. He wasn’t perfect. Neither was I. But our love for each other at the end of each and every day was what mattered.

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I knew I’d found the one when I got butterflies in my stomach looking up at him draped in the Homecoming Prince ribbon as he danced with me slowly to LeeAnn Rimes’ “I Hope You Dance.”

I knew I’d found the one when I spilled my water bottle all over myself in study hall and we laughed for a solid 45 minutes.

I knew I’d found the one when I found out he’d made a commitment just like me to wait until marriage.

I knew I’d found the one when he took me home to say hi to his mom… four months before we started dating.

I knew I’d found the one when he handed me a diamond key necklace and a white teddy bear for our first Valentine’s Day.

I knew I’d found the one when he pretended to get stuck in an igloo for 20 minutes just to make me laugh.

I knew I’d found the one when he was just as willing and eager to miss a week of school to travel the world as I was.

When he encouraged me more often and more passionately than anyone else ever would in my dreams for photography.

When he pushed me and challenged me to be better when all I wanted to do was give up.

When he reminded me often of God’s love for us and our true purpose in life.

When he pointed out my flaws only to help me live my life with a more Christ-like love.

When he held me in his arms and helped me breathe mid-panic attack my freshman year of college.

When he memorized my favorite things so that he could surprise me with them months/years down the road.

When he taught me how to harmonize and then sang along with me to all our favorite songs.

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There was never one instance where I knew in my heart that Justin was the one I wanted to marry. There were too many to count. There were moments when I doubted, yes. When I second guessed whether this was right. How could I not after 5 years of thinking about it? But the moments that I knew always outnumbered the moments that I didn’t. And that, my friends, is how you know.

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