Written By: Rachael Dowling
“You don’t have to stick your head in the oven to know it’s hot.”
This was my philosophy on dating – and still my stance on life. There’s so much we can learn through observation. So much we can experience from being surrounded by family and friends.
My parents started homeschooling me in 6th grade – just as the years of middle school “puppy love” began. I still attended the middle school for their orchestra program. Even for the 45 minutes I was involved in class, there was enough drama to last me a week.
‘Kelly broke up with Ryan 2nd period, started dating Philip after lunch, and by 8th period realized Ryan was all she had ever wanted.’
Barf. No thanks. I quietly sidelined the dating scene, and that was just fine with me. I never had a date to the middle school dances – or throughout the first few years of high school either – and I was okay with that. Sweet 16 and never been kissed? Oh yeah, that’s me. Stories my mom told about not meeting my dad until college, gave me hope! There was probably a man out there for me, I just had to be patient.
Dating wasn’t my goal. My goal was to make myself an interesting, knowledgeable, and a God fearing woman – so when I did meet him, I would deserve him. Attending church 2-3 times a week, personal bible study, watching Alton Brown, reading Phantom of the Opera, and attending ballet, photography, and orchestra classes were thrown onto my wheel of life. It worked for Audrey Hepbrun in Sabrina, why wouldn’t it work for me?
One year, the local youth groups merged for a See You At The Pole rally. The goal was to put on a Human Video (actions set to music) as a part of the pre-rally events. I was cast as “The Friend”. My role was to talk with a friend. While we talked, a guy would come up and push me out of the way so he could make a move on her. Ha! Story of my life! I got this…
Problem. The guy was super cute! GAHHHH! Can I be re-cast? The cute boy’s name was Joshua. And for the first time, I asked my friends to find out some information about him.
My friends and I started going to a larger youth group in the area. Joshua was a regular, and I’d see him a few times a week. We hung out in the same circle of friends. This worked to my advantage – I could get to know him without getting too close. I watched as he opened doors for me, and stayed to hold the door open for everyone else. He was kindhearted and quiet, with a sense of humour.
One of the things we have in common is our birthday week – his is November 14th and mine is November 17th. The year we turned 16, my party fell on his birthday. I couldn’t have a birthday party for myself on his birthday. So, I asked him if he would have a double birthday party with me. That weekend, we started dating.
My dad had set very strict guidelines about what “dating” meant. No solo dates. Special events like homecoming and prom were allowed. But we had to arrive and leave with the group of 6+ people. Even our talk time on the phone had a daily 15 minute limit.
Needless to say, we were excited to graduate high school and set our own guidelines. But graduation brought even more distance. Joshua went to school in Minneapolis MN, while I went to school Madison, WI. Our freedom turned into 160 character text messages and waiting until 7:00pm when calling was free. Joshua asked me to court him. Even from a distance, it meant we were both committed to each other.
After a year of school, I felt convicted about why I was there. I really felt God calling me to be a wife and a mother – and Wife101 wasn’t a course being offered. Joshua also stepped back from school – it was difficult to justify costs and even more difficult to realize the inevitable day when those student loans would need to be repaid.
Joshua moved back to his hometown, and I stayed in Madison. The end of fall, Joshua proposed and we set a date! I moved back, and stayed with our Pastor and his wife before the wedding. That spring, we were married in the same church we had first met – with our Pastor from youth group to perform the ceremony. *cue happy tears*
Since then, our marriage has been filled with beautiful, happy moments… times of uncertainty…. unexplained loss… and the joy of new life! Being able to bring our marriage to God has always been the common ground that keeps us together.
Rachael Dowling has a passion for God, family, and photography. She married her high school sweetheart, Joshua, and they live in the heart of Wisconsin. Together they raise their four little men, and just started homeschooling this year. On the weekends, you can find Rachael and Joshua photographing weddings. During the day, Rachael loves listening to sermons – such as John MacArthur or Alistair Begg. In her free time, she enjoys watching Dr. Who and re-runs of Good Eats.