“Don’t lose your grip on Love and Loyalty. Tie them around your neck; carve their initials on your heart.”
Today’s post is going to be a tad more personal than my most recent blog posts, and that’s because I really want you to feel like you know me, and I want to be able to connect with you guys on a personal level! So, I thought that a good way to help you guys to get to know me better would to be to give you the story of mine and Matt’s relationship, and share with you some photos from our engagement shoot that were taken by the wonderful Laura Rhian around April 2016 (on that note, if any of you guys are getting engaged, married, having a baby, want some family portraits or any photography work done, hit Laura up, she is so talented, and I cannot wait to have her photograph our wedding in July 2017!)
I’ll tell you our story with some engagement photos interspersed throughout. Enjoy 🙂
Matt and I met in Sixth Form. It was around September of 2011, I was 16 and he was 17, and we both went on a youth group holiday with our church, recognised that we went to the same Sixth Form, hung out a bit and started to form a friendship.
When we got home from that holiday and went back to Sixth Form, we started hanging out there, too. He was in the year above, and ran the Christian Union. So, naturally, I dragged my friends along to the CU meetings so that I could spend more time with him, and from there we started walking into town together after classes and volunteering at church together.
I’ll always remember this, because firstly I wasn’t expecting it at all, and secondly, I think it was incredibly sweet in hindsight knowing that he had a crush on me too! It was my 17th birthday, and Matt gave me a really cute card, and (he later told me) he was careful not to put any kisses on the card because he wanted me to know that he only wants to do that if he’s in a relationship with me. He wanted to keep it special.
From then on, we spent as much time together as we could, and then in December of 2011, Matt read me a poem that he’d written for me, which finished with the lines “we should be together, things are better that way” and asked me to be his girlfriend!
During this time, I was actually suffering really badly with Anorexia, which I was honest with Matt about, and he kind of got thrown into the deep end with it. Matt’s eyes were fixed so firmly on God, though, that he was able to really come up behind me and carry me through the darkest days of my life. He prayed with me, he ate with me, he cried with me… with God’s help, Matt put my feet above his and walked me through that disorder and out the other side.
It’s an incredible thing to have got through for such a young relationship, and it matured us both in ways that have proved to be invaluable to our growth and development as a couple. After only a few months together, I was in treatment for a life-threatening illness, and Matt had to rely on God through that time, not knowing really at all what he was getting himself into, but knowing all the same that God had brought us together “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14), and knowing that God would use it for the good of us, and the good of His kingdom.
It took a year for me to be discharged from the mental health services, and I was incredibly lucky (mostly blessed) to not have to live with any serious long-term effects of the illness. I feel as though that first year of our relationship really was crucial. We didn’t once question our loyalty to each other, because we were forced to rely completely and utterly on God. I was unable to rely on my mind or my body, and the illness often refused to let me rely on Matt either, and Matt guided me towards God, towards my father, and together we spent a huge amount of our time in prayer and worship, which nourished our relationship to no end.
Because of that year spent in full reliance on God, a tone was set for our relationship: nothing is by our own doing, but by God’s. God is the source of our love, of our satisfaction, everything good that we have if a gift from God, and every moment that we spend together is a chance to glorify God through our actions, our words, and our attitudes. He saved my life, and He brought me Matt; I joyfully owe Him absolutely everything that I am. This mindset is key to a healthy relationship. It’s about realising that the other person is not meant to be, and can never be, everything that our hearts need in a companion, but God is. When you’re both filled to the brim with God, you can fully appreciate and love each other for exactly who each of you are, without expecting the other person to fulfil all of your needs, without expecting them to be perfect, but just in exactly who they are.
The next few years flew by. Matt went to the University of Manchester to study Theology, whilst I completed my final year of Sixth Form, then I went to the University of Birmingham to study English Literature and Philosophy. We are very blessed to live in a city sandwiched between Manchester and Birmingham, so we were able to still spend a lot of time together (never as much as we’d have liked, but that just made the time that we did get to spend together that much more special).
We went on some really awesome dates, did a lot of hiking, Matt ran a half marathon, I ran the London Marathon, Matt took up weightlifting, I got back into competitive cheerleading, I went vegan, Matt went vegetarian. Changes happened as is expected in your late teens! Through it all, we embraced the changes in passions and goals of each other, we encouraged personal growth, we kept focussed on God and made Him the priority in our relationship, which allowed us to truly see the other person through God’s eyes, seeing all of their strengths and weaknesses and loving them just the same.
I’m not saying this was always easy or automatic, but I am so blessed to honestly be able say that there hasn’t been a single moment in our relationship when I didn’t recognise Matt, didn’t feel his heart, didn’t want to absolute best for him, and didn’t want to be his companion forever. So many people say that arguing is healthy in a relationship, or that the ‘honeymoon period’ will last a year or two before people get bored of each other, get snappy, start overlooking the other, etc. Honestly, it’s coming up to 5 years now (it’ll be our 5th anniversary in December 2016!) and I don’t feel as though there was ever a honeymoon period or an end to it, just honest companionship.
Matt builds me up and I try to do the same for him. We respect each other, if we disagree, we always choose to feel our love for each other stronger than our anger or irritability, we choose respect, openness, and because we’ve done this from day one, it’s not a struggle for us. We make a habit of it. The times we do disagree are few and far between (I often feel as though, because we spent so much time together consistently from a young-ish age, we’ve grown into our views and beliefs together).
We started talking about marriage about a year into our relationship. We were in Cornwall, lying on the beach at around 10pm, looking up at a sky full of stars. Matt said “God, if you want me and Tamar to get married, show me a shooting star” and in that moment, the sky lit up with a shooting star across our eyes. It’s a moment that’s so personal to us, it’s hard to articulate the gravity of it. I was 18 years old and I’d just received divine confirmation that the guy next to me would be next to me for the rest of my life. It’s the kind of moment where you think “Oh wow, God really does exist and he’s thinking about me“.
Another similar experience we had was the year later. Matt and I were walking through some woods together when I lost a silver bracelet that he’d bought for me the previous summer. We didn’t know that I’d dropped it at the time, so we didn’t notice until the next day when I wanted to put it on and couldn’t find it. I was so upset when I realised where it must be. That bracelet came with a promise from Matt that he was going to spend forever with me, and it was heartbreaking to know that I’d lost that!
The next day, we went to the same forest to see if we could see it anywhere (like searching for a needle in a haystack! It was a big area) we had looked for a good while, with no sign of it anywhere, and I was getting quite upset at this point. On our way back to the car. I stopped on the spot and just said out loud to God “If i look down and find my bracelet right now, I will marry Matt and wear this bracelet on our wedding day”. I opened my eyes and looked down, not expecting to see anything at all, but right by my feet the bracelet was lying there, clean and shining, right in front of me. I couldn’t believe it and once again I was flawed by the sheer fact that God exists and listens to me, and that God really wants me to marry Matt. How amazing is that!
Fast forward a couple of years (mostly because this blog post is getting so long), I’m in my second year of university, and Matt is in his final year. He asks me to come back to Stoke one Friday (26/2/2016) so that we could go walking in the Roaches together. We love walking there, so I was looking forward to it all week! (So was Matt, but he had more reason to than me…) Matt was planning to propose to me whilst we were there, and of course I had no idea he’d even bought a ring or anything. We had discussed the fact that we’d be getting engaged in 2016, I just didn’t know when.
Anyway, Matt took me to the Roaches (with my cute doggy, Jasper!) and we walked up to Hen Cloud. He set up a tripod at the peak, and said that we should get a photograph together (which of course, I was super excited about, I love getting photos of us). So he sets up the camera on a tripod and tells me he’s set it onto a self timer, then walks over to me and puts his arms around me.
He starts talking to me, saying really lovely things, but I was a bit confused as to why he wasn’t smiling for the picture, so I looked at him, and he got down on one knee and asked me to be his wife. Honestly, the first thing I said was “wait, is this for real??” We’d spoken about it so much, that it had almost become like this dream for me, a magical moment for some time in the distant future.. I knew it would happen eventually but that meant that when it did happen, I wasn’t quite sure that it was real haha. Of course, I saw the ring, and I said yes, and we hugged, and I knew it was real. It was wonderful. We have a little video of the actual proposal here:
It’s been 9 months since that day, and we’re getting married in 8 months – crazy that we’re over half way through our engagement already!! I honestly just cannot wait to be this man’s wife. I can’t wait to celebrate God through our love, I cannot wait to serve Him through serving Matt, and I cannot wait to spread the love of God into the whole world alongside Matt.
The most important thing that I’ve learned throughout my adult life thus far (I’m only 22 haha, so i guess it hasn’t been that long), is that when you put God first, and serve Him above all else, He will give you the desires of your heart.
God’s amazing grace means that I can be me and experience a love straight from God. A love stronger than any other thing I could possibly feel. and I know that as long as our gazes are fixed on God, our marriage will be strong, sturdy, love-filled, generous, serving, gracious, and above all, Godly. I’m only 22, and Matt’s only 23, but regardless of age, with God we have all of the resources we need for this marriage to not only last a lifetime, but to thrive and nourish whatever it comes into contact with for as long as we both shall live.
And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.
1 John 4:16