Monday, September 27, 2021

Reed Family Update: Hannah's Engaged!

In January, I wrote with great joy that my son Noah proposed to Hannah Birmingham and she said yes!  They are looking forward to getting married in May of 2022. 

Adding to the joy, we now get to anticipate adding another member to our family!  Two weeks ago, Matt Koster proposed to my daughter, Hannah and she also said yes!  Matt and Hannah have friends who happen to be professional photographers, and so Matt planned to have a hike and a picnic with them, and they were able to capture the moments on camera.  They are planning to get married sometime in 2022 as well, likely in the fall.
I feel so blessed.  I started praying about Hannah Birmingham and Matt Koster when my children were very young.  Bob and I would pray regularly that IF our children decided to get married (we never wanted to presume anything or pressure them if God had other plans for them!), that God will give them good partners.  And while Bob has not had a chance to see that prayer come true, I am so thankful for the choices the my children have made.  

Matt Koster was born and raised in Michigan, graduated from Calvin University, and currently works in a consulting firm for software development.  Matt and Hannah met through a mutual friend group that grew out of Calvin connections and they started dating in December of 2019.  

Hannah is working as a clinician with young people with drug and alcohol abuse and recently started her own LLC where she is serving as a counselor for children and families, with a special focus on families impacted by autism.  She is also working toward her social work license, which requires 4000 hours of supervised clinical work, and will hopefully have completed that by next fall as well.  It's a busy time for her but she does love what she is doing.    

While the excitement and joy is fully present, I can't help but marvel on how much their dear Dad has missed in the last eleven years.  How he will be missed on these two wedding days!  The talks that Noah needs from his father; the delight that Hannah would see in her Dad's eyes; the walking down the aisle, and so much more.  Bob loved to do premarital counseling (as many of you have testified!) and how he would have loved to do that same counseling with his own children!  What would he have told them?  What might they have learned?  The permanence of death rears its ugly head often still and it will do so for our whole lives.  Yes, time does move on and the gap created through death never closes but rather remains a hole with scar tissue around.  Hannah asked if she could contribute to this blog - it continues to be a journal of our lives and I know many of you have appreciated her writing in the past - so here is what she has to say:

At a young age, my mother gave me the following direction: that I was not allowed to get married until I was 27 years old.  At the time, I was quite angry at what I perceived to be a grave injustice- she got married when she was 21 and I did not think it fair that I would have to wait until I was 27 (being young at the time and a very rule-oriented person, it took a while for me to realize that I could make my own decisions as an adult, even if my mom ordered otherwise).

I am now 28 and am engaged, hoping to be married in a year’s time. I have not been an obedient daughter by choice - I began planning my wedding when I was under the age of 10.  I’ve had a wedding planning Pinterest board since I was in college.  About 6 years ago, I decided my wedding day would be September 24th because it felt like the perfect day.  I began to wish myself privately a “happy future anniversary” every September 24th.  I was not dating anyone seriously and was content with my dreams of “someday” and “someone”. 

But now the day and the person are much more real.  Matt is a dream and a joy, an amazing friend and partner, supportive, loving, fun, and full of a deep love for God.  And as I anticipate marriage and all the changes that will bring to my life and Matt’s life, I have also been reflecting on singleness.

I was single for a long time - or, at least, it felt long to me, as I watched friends get married while I was not even dating someone seriously.  I was, at times, discontent with my singleness and longing for a partner.  More often, I was fiercely attached to the idea of being single and in some ways was quite proud of it.  I was a woman building a career, getting an advanced degree, making it on my own, learning about who I am and who I want to be in Christ.  I saw friend after friend, acquaintance after acquaintance, getting married, then having children, and that made me prouder of my singleness.  I was different.  I did not follow the path that had been laid out for me by much of West Michigan and the culture of Calvin University.  I did not get engaged before graduating.  I did not go to school to find a husband. I did not need someone else to be okay and was becoming more comfortable with who I was.

This pride in my singleness was also fueled by the response of my church community.  I have always been an active volunteer at church, sitting on the anti-racism team, volunteering in children’s ministry, being on the worship team, etc. And yet, there were many moments when I felt out of place at church as a young single adult. I clearly remember a day when a woman who I appreciate and love at church said off-hand that we “needed more young men” at our church so they could “marry our young women.”  I was hurt - did I need a husband?  Did I need a man to be whole or be better?  What was wrong with my singleness?  What was missing from my participation in church by not having a husband?  Being a stubborn woman, this sort of conversation both hurt as well as fueled my pride in being single.

So, renouncing the title of “single” and taking the title of “girlfriend” in December of 2019, when I started dating Matt, was an adjustment.  I fit into circles now where I hadn’t before - but fitting in to circles where before I had not felt welcome left a bad taste in my mouth.  I avoided talking about my new relationship, not out of shame for the relationship, but for two reasons: first, I did not want my new relationship to begin to define me within my church, where conversations could turn from discussing anti-racism work or my job working with children and youth to conversations about my dating life and asking if marriage was in the picture yet; and second, because I was resentful.  I did not want to share so personal a life event with people who make me feel as though they were just waiting for me to get married, as if I could not be happy or complete without that taking place. 

I adjusted to the change in title.  Eventually people found out I was dating someone.  The disruption of COVID and statewide shut downs slowed the news spreading and eased us into church spaces virtually.  And now, looking ahead to marriage and an even bigger step away from singleness, I am again finding myself defensive and anxious.  I do not, nor have I ever wanted to be, someone who conforms to this society - I spent enough of my life living outside of these norms and enough of my life trying to change them to not particularly enjoy them now.  I wrestle with the idea that I will be getting married, reinforcing the unfair expectations from others that this is what women will eventually do - settle down and get married.  I am already cringing away from the questions that will inevitably follow: “when are you going to have kids?”  

I need to not forget what it feels like to be single.  I need to work to ensure that as a currently engaged and eventually married woman, I always make room at my table and in my heart and home for people who are single, by choice or by chance.  I need to get better at being hospitable and welcoming to others, particularly to those who do not fit the mold of what society expects or wants.  Diversity in many different types is valuable, including relationship status.  

                                                                                                    ~Hannah Reed