10 Days until "I Do"

Today as a drove to my last final of the semester, I was reflecting on my life and everything that has led up to this point. And here are some of the thoughts that I want to share with you all.

As many of you know I belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, known as the LDS church or the Mormon Church, I was raised in my faith, having parents who took me to church every Sunday, and talked openly about the Gospel of Christ with my brother and I. Growing up, my faith was second nature, I didn't doubt it because that was all I ever knew, I believed in God, I believed in Christ and I believed in my church. I was raised with a strong foundation in Jesus Christ, something that I am very thankful for in my life, and my faith is a large part of my identity. I loved going to church because I had many friends there, and I always felt peaceful and happy as I sat, and listened to people talk about the gospel. My ward in back in Kirkland Washington was a big second family to me, I felt loved, and cherished, and important there. Life was really good, and it remained that way for many years.

As I grew older things began to change, both physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I was going through puberty, and the once boyish looking girl with short hair, T-shirts, and cargo shorts morphed into a pretty girl seemingly overnight.

I started growing my hair out, wearing pink (which I previously refused to wear), wearing flowy "girly shirts" and jeans. I started playing with makeup, and doing more to my hair than putting it in a pony tail. I became more independent, searching things out for myself and questioning both my parents and my faith which is a very natural thing to do. A really big change was the fact that I began looking at boys differently than I had earlier in my life. Boys always just used to be my friends, but now I started seeing boys as cute, and I started having crushes on the boys I thought were cute.

It was a very common thing for kids to "date" at my middle school, dating mainly consisted of holding hands occasionally and telling other people that you were boyfriend and girlfriend. And sometimes hanging out together outside of school, and possibly kissing each other. 

My parents raised me with the expectation of not dating before I was 16 years old. Which is a common practice in my church, since church leaders feel like dating before the age of 16 can lead to trouble, and that 15 year olds and younger are just not mature enough to be dating. I always listened to my parents and followed their counsel, going into middle school I told myself I would not date before 16, and I dreamed of marrying my future spouse in the Temple--which is a very sacred and special place for the members of the LDS faith because it is the house of the Lord, where we make sacred covenants with God, and when we get married there, we make covenants between God and our spouses. The temple is a place where we can feel an incredible peace, and where we can learn more about the Gospel. The temple was always my goal.

But all of my friends had boyfriends, and it really didn't seem like such a big deal, its not like they were real relationships. My parents didn't have to find out. So I got myself my first boyfriend at age 13. I had three boyfriends in middle school, one of which I had my first kiss with, and I stupidly said I love you shortly after even though the love I felt for him were butterflies. At the end of 8th grade I told myself I didn't want to have another boyfriend until I was 16, I could wait two years right?

Wrong. My self control failed me when it came to saying no to boys who I liked. My freshman year I had two boyfriends which didn't last for longer than a month each. Boys noticed me, my body was "desirable", and I liked to flirt, and might I add that I discovered I was pretty good at it. Of course I committed to myself again at the end of my freshman year that I wanted to wait until I was 16 to have another boyfriend. I had to be better, and to stop hiding things from my parents. 

I broke up with my last boyfriend of my freshman year by telling him I wanted to wait to date until I was 16, but I would totally date him again in a year. So when sophomore year began he was the first "suitor" waiting at my door. He quickly won over my heart, and I fell for him hard, and by October he was officially my boyfriend. We saw each other at school every day and we talked after school for hours on end. And unlike my previous relationships, him and I actually started to see each other after school. We became best friends, and we told each other everything, we bought each other gifts, and wrote each other notes. One day we started talking about the future, our future. He talked about how cute our babies would be, how perfect we would be together if we got married. At first I thought it was all a silly, cute thing to say, and that it wasn't realistic, I sure did love him, but we were 15, so it couldn't be a serious conversation. But little did I know, the conversation was a 100% how he felt about me. 

I was head over heels for him, and he was the same for me. Looking back I think my love for him was similar to addiction, when I was with him or talking to him I felt like I was on a high--and happy, but when we were apart I felt alone and depressed. And because of that notion, my love for him grew and grew, and he quickly became all I cared about, even more than my own self. And as the months passed on, and we kept talking about our future together, I started wanting a future with him too. One day he asked me what I would say if he asked me to marry him, and I told him that I wouldn't not say no--which cancels out to yes. I thought he was talking futuristic-ally again, like what would you say if we were still dating when we graduated and I asked you to marry me? Not what if I asked you to marry me next week, or tomorrow. 

But shortly after what I thought was a hypothetical question he asked me what kind of rings I like, and shortly after that he asked me to marry him. I didn't know if I really wanted that or not, my logic and my soul was screaming no, but my love stricken heart was saying yes, yes, yes. I started to cry because I was so confused. I didn't give him an answer that day, and I told him I would give him an answer the day after. 

Long story short I said yes. 

And in a few days the news of my engagement spread through the halls of my high-school like wild fire. Everyone knew about us. Some people were supportive and that it was a really cute notion that we loved each other enough to promise we would get married after high-school. While others laughed, and mocked our choice, and told me I was crazy--which I was.

I always knew deep down that our relationship had some serious issues, and that I shouldn't have said yes, both when he asked me to be his girlfriend and when he asked me to marry him. But I did anyways. I didn't trust the feeling that was telling me no, I thought I was in control, and that I could handle it all on my own. I was wrong.

I most certainly could not handle it on my own, and my life started unraveling before my eyes. Depression swallowed me in a blanket so thick that it was hard to even breath. My faith had been ripped into pieces, my identity was cracked--I didn't recognize the girl who stood in front of the mirror. I was living in a lie, that was consuming every part of my existence. I dreamed of falling asleep and never waking up, because that would be so much easier then having to make it through one more day. 

While I might have been able to keep up the appearance of "everything is fine" at school, with strangers and even with my friends, my family knew something was seriously wrong. And to my relief they decided to get me help, to send me to a therapeutic program in Utah and surrounded by nature. So one day I vanished, with out warning.

I became known as the girl who disappeared. No one knew where I was at first. And as the weeks went on without any trace of me, my parents started telling a select few of my close friends where I was, but were very vague and didn't want my exact location to be known. The rumors quickly spread. That I was dying of cancer and I moved away to live out my last days somewhere peaceful. That my parents sent me away because I was pregnant so that I could have a baby without anyone finding out. Or That I was sent to a Mormon rehabilitation camp in Utah, which was probably the closest guess about where I had gone. 

Once upon a time I was just known as Arianna at my old high-school. I used to be Arianna the girl with a normal ambiguous high-school identity, the girl who some people liked, and who most people got along with, the girl who had a lot of random friends from every social group, the girl who played soccer and loved animals, the Mormon girl,  I had no special title like "the girl who is engaged" or "the girl who got sent away". 

It's funny how quickly things change based on one decision. It's funny how each choice leads you down a different path then you had originally planned. As a child I imagined myself doing well in high-school and then going to college to become a Veterinarian, and that while I was in college I would go on a mission just like my parents, and when I got back I would meet my future spouse and we would get married in the Temple and live happily ever after. 

At 16 I was lost, hopeless, depressed and suicidal. I was broken and ever since I've been putting back the pieces of my brokenness. Some of my scars have healed 100%, while others are still fragile and re-breakable. Through all of the hard times, the tears, and the pain I found myself again, and I grew stronger and stronger than I ever was before. Sometimes I wish I could go back in time and stop certain things from happening, or completely rewrite history, but I realize how important every mistake I made was, because without my past happening exactly the way that it did, I wouldn't have met Chase. 

My choices took me on a different path then I originally intended. I never wanted to be engaged so young, or spend two years of my life away from home, living in Utah and Montana and doing loads of therapy. I never wanted to hurt my parents the way that I did. I never wanted to hurt my friends the way that I did.

All of those things happened. But as I've grown and matured and healed, and re-converted myself to the Gospel of Jesus Christ I can see clearly how God has been there for me through it all, that his plan has always been greater than my own. And no matter what mistakes I made, he was always waiting for me to reach out my hand to him, so he could heal me and guide me to something greater than everything that I have ever been through. And that greater thing has always been Chase. He is what God has been leading me towards my whole life without me even knowing it before. 

Without going to wilderness, I never would have gone to Boarding school and fallen in love with art, and without going to boarding school and falling in love with art and photography, I never would have gone to VCU to study art in Richmond, which is where I really decided what was important to me and I planned on going on a mission--I even had my call. But I met someone and made some mistakes in Richmond to which I had to make a choice, to stay at VCU or to go on my own mission to work in Wilderness Therapy as a Field Staff. I would never have moved to Utah and worked at Red Cliff Ascent where I found that my calling in life was not to be an artist but to be a therapist working with struggling adolescents just like I used to be. And without working at Red Cliff and realizing my dream job I would never had stayed in Utah and transferred to UVU. And if I never decided to stay in Utah, then I never would have had the idea to sign up for online dating apps, and If I never signed up for Tinder then I never would have met Chase. 

You can say that is all a coincidence, that there is no such thing as fate, or that God isn't real and can't guide us in our choices. You're believes may be different than mine. But to me, none of this happened by coincidence or mistake. Everything in my life has led me to where I am now, it has led me to my future spouse, to a Temple Marriage that I have always dreamed of. And I know God was behind it all. Because I prayed where to go after Richmond, and my answer was Utah. I prayed if I should stay in Utah and go to school here, and my answer was yes. I prayed if I should use Tinder and other various online dating apps and that I would meet someone, or at least make some new friends in a place I was unfamiliar with. When I met Chase, I prayed if I should keep dating him and my answer was yes. When I started to fall in love with Chase, I prayed and asked if Chase and I were good for each other and that if we were supposed to get married, and my answer was peace. 

In 10 Days, Chase and I will be married inside of the Provo City Center Temple, where we will make covenants with each other and with God. Chase has taught me so much more about the Gospel, and he has strengthened my testimony more than anyone in my life ever has. He is my best friend, and rock. Sometimes I get down on myself for my past, and I feel like I am not good enough, or that my flaws make me inadequate for him, but despite my past and the scars from the past, and all of my flaws, Chase accepts me, and embraces me, and loves me more than anyone ever has. I am so thankful to have found someone that completes me so fully, loves the Gospel, and loves me so abundantly. Chase is everything I have ever dreamed of and so much more! Our relationship has had its ups and downs, it has been hard, and at times I feel like something is trying to pull us apart and stop a beautiful thing from happening but I know that God wants us to be together, and I know that both Chase and I feel like we are meant to be together. So we have pushed through the drama, the fights, the bad days because I know that we are so much stronger than that, and I know that he is worth every hard thing that I have ever been through. He is my happily ever after, my everything, and my best friend. 

There are only 233 Hours until we become Husband and Wife. I wish time went faster!

To Celebrate the fact that May 7th is only 10 days away from today, here the photos of us from our formal shoot with Autumn Nicole!