Maddy: "Love is putting someone else above yourself in every aspect. Love is going out of your way to make him smile. Love is wanting to sit in a room of silence after a bad day because it's still better than being apart. Being loved is the way you feel when he looks at you with the biggest grin on his face. Love is pushing him to be his best version because he does the same for you. Love is working hard and being patient because not everyday is perfect. Love is putting your biggest insecurities on the line and realizing that's what he loves most about you."
Andrew: "I honor my girlfriend by being faithful to her in every aspect of my life. I honor her by truly listening and showing a genuine interest in everything she has to say, even the smallest things in her life mean the most to me. I honor her by not only supporting her in accomplishing her dreams but by working with her to reach them. I honor her by pushing myself to become a better person. Honoring your girlfriend isn’t just one thing that you either do or you don’t, it’s a collection of things you do to make her the happiest girl in the world."
Both: "We met senior/junior year of high school on the bus. On accident he sat in my seat of the bus so I joined him. I recognized him from basketball and talked his ear off. He had headphones in and seemed annoyed having to take them out every time I thought of a new question. I later mentioned to one of his teammates how I thought he was cute. Of course he pressured Andrew to text me and after one date to Chipotle the rest was history. When I left for college we were 3 hours apart and when Andrew left it increased to 7. The distance has only made our love, sass and efforts toward one another stronger. We are both loving college so much but excited to graduate and build our lives together. We are grateful for what distance has taught us but we are excited for the time where we get to see each other everyday."
Maddy: "I respect my boyfriend because of how generous he is towards others. He is always volunteering his time to willingly help others who need it. I respect the hard work he puts into his career but also himself. I respect the patience he has with me and how he is willing to make every situation the best it can be. I respect the levels of effort he puts in to making me the happiest and best version of myself."
Andrew: "I would define love as finding someone that you choose to put before yourself. Love is going out of your way just to make her day. Love is getting that special feeling each time you see her no matter how long you’ve been together. Love is doing everything possible to make her the happiest person in the world even if that means you must make sacrifices. Love is wanting to be by her side in not only the happiest of days but also the darkest. It’s not always easy but love is about finding that person that makes it all worth it."
Part 2 of the Make America Great Series. My friend Alexa and I decided to continue this project by posing this question to individuals on the Charlottesville Downtown Mall, a little over a year since the riots occurred in this exact location. This is how people responded to the question: "What would truly make this country great?"
"Respect for humanity."
"Everybody needs love of each other + open mind."
"I think America is already great."
"Smile. Smiling causes an actual brain chemistry change in you and the person you smile at."
"More king cobras, except their all nice pets."
-Matthew (older boy)
-Alex (younger boy)
-Olivia (young girl)
"People being willing to put themselves out there for love and trust."
"No more guns."
"Impeach Trump; I don't want any harm for the guy he just needs to be out of office."
Nicole: "Love gives you the last bite of gelato. It holds you tight until you tell it what's wrong. Love listens intently and compassionately. It is honest and vulnerable. Love knows you thoroughly and holds you accountable to pursuing your dreams. It fights with you for you. Love is wholeheartedly, sacrificially and joyfully committed to the betterment of another, regardless of the cost to it. Love lays its life down for another (John 15:13). It is patient and kind. Love does not envy or boast, it isn't proud. Love doesn't dishonor others, it is not self seeking. It is not easily angered and keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects (Will's name means resolute protector & guardian), always trusts, always hopes and always perseveres. Love never fails. It is enduring. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)"
Will: "I honor my beautiful wife through sacrificial love and being flexible to her wants and needs. To love this deeply means you are willing to give up anything in order to provide for someone's needs. Nicole needs someone who can honor her with her time and who will dedicate their life to constant prayer and asking the Lord to have His way in this relationship. To honor Nicole is (most of the time) to honor the Lord through the sacrificing of time when it feels like there isn't time to give, making a space for the Lord when if feels like you don't even have space to breathe, and giving Him your all when it feels like you have nothing to give. Nicole is honored when I am able to encourage her and challenge her in these ways."
Nicole: "I misunderstood the concept of 'respecting one's husband' until God gave me Will. Respect for Will simply overflows from the deep well of love I have for him. It is easy to respect such an incredible man! I'm quite verbal about my admiration of him, his character and achievements within our home and publicly. I love to celebrate who he is through words, gifts and service.
In the first few months of our marriage, I thought there was a universal role of 'wife' that I needed to fulfill. My default perspective was that respect looked like cleaning the home, making meals, and doing laundry. While Will appreciated that, he felt most respect when I listened to what he actually wanted--simply time with me. I started asking God what it means for me specifically to be Will's wife. I'm learning to respect him by surrendering my ideas/misunderstandings/lies I've believed and simply growing with him. Some days respect looks like letting the dishes pile up for a few hours while we just enjoy time together in this season of life!"
Will: "Since I struggled from a lack of trust in women, it took me a while to even consider marriage with Nicole. I enjoyed her presence and I actively saw the Lord in her, but I had a trust issue. I knew, the moment I asked her to be my girlfriend that I would be asking her to be my wife someday."
"We definitely serve the Lord better together than we do apart. Will is an outgoing introvert, so he tends to be a little reserved and sometimes unwilling to go out of his comfort zone if he is feeling a little drained. Nicole is very much an extravert and has a tendency to overload her schedule. We do an amazing job of balancing each other out in regards to that, which helps us both serve the Lord better in the places we're at.
We are each others' greatest compliment. Where one is weak or uncomfortable the other is strong and bold. The day we got engaged, friends prayed that our marriage would be a dangerous force for the Kingdom and that is what we seek to live into daily."
Will: "Nicole needs to BELIEVE. She loves believing the Gospel for others, but sometimes tends to forget that it is for her as well. As a husband that is something I have been actively pursuing, telling Nicole her worth and identity in the Lord. Nicole is so conscious of her sin (which is not inherently a bad thing), but that is why the gospel exists to tell you that you are a sinner but there is a God who has paid for that. The law should only serve as a mirror to show you your sin, which should point you to the Lord in the sense that because He has poured out his life for yours, you should pour out your life for His glory."
Nicole: "Will is REMARKABLE at serving. When he eats well, sleeps well, has meaningful work, deep and close relationships, and walks in his true identity I am truly served just by being around him. He makes me laugh, makes me feel seen and heard, he is the best listener, he works hard in and outside of the home, he encourages me to pursue my dreams, he doesn't let me go to sleep believing lies, he prays over me, he allows me to be me, he makes incredibly delicious food within my crazy dietary restrictions and ALWAYS points me to Jesus and reminds me of His love first."
Will: "Love is one of the most powerful emotions we can feel as humans. To love means to set your own personal desires aside for a "greater good". That greater good is someone who you love and would be willing to lay your life down for. In all of our daily lives, this is what we should actively pursue for the Lord and for those to get married it is what we should actively pursue for our marriages. Love is joyfully accepting this responsibility because it is what the Lord has called us to because He first loved us."
Nicole: "Since I am his wife, God willed him to have a partner to encourage him in who he is and what he was created to do. Will, like all of us, needs Jesus and for his wife, friends and family to be constant reminders of the Gospel, his unique identity and Kingdom purpose! I daily pray for him to have the courage and confidence to be who he is in Jesus because that man is a leader, world changer, gift to this earth and the greatest fella I know."
Will: "She has served me in ways that she doesn't even know. For me, I relax by watching movies and resting my mind. Nicole does not particularly enjoy doing the activities often. One major way she has served me is by submitting to that need and pursuing that with me. She is constantly a radiant beam of encouragement for me, which Is the main way I need to be served. Nicole knows that I struggle with being confident in myself. She is able to constantly encourage me and tell me who I am. She also cleans and cooks and does so many things for me in those ways, so that's nice."
"Nicole entered college adamantly against ever being married, out of a place of hurt, brokenness, and distrust. Will was going with the flow as per usual. As the Lord willed it, they met on the evening of September 12, 2014 in Bell Hall at JMU. We clicked quite quickly. We discovered they share the same favorite movie (We Bought a Zoo), favorite cheese (Pepperjack) and even finished each others' sentences...we were alarmed too. After two months, much prayer and counsel, Will asked Nicole to be his girlfriend.
Being the helpless romantic that he is, Will went and bought flowers, candles, and played the We Bought a Zoo soundtrack. Will also made nine note cards, one for each week they had been together. On each note card was a cheesy play on words using the creation story from Genesis. The note cards were carefully placed in order up the stairs and the flowers and candles were set up around the swinging bench. Friends of ours directed Nicole into the building and she started reading cheesy note card after cheesy note card. As she reached the top of the stairs, Will asked her to be his girlfriend and Nicole responded with the same gentle response as always...she screamed yes and started crying. November 13, 2014 began the most wonderful adventure of best friendship, learning more of who they truly are, and falling absolutely in love. Alongside Will, Nicole learned greater freedom in Jesus, how to love, trust and value herself according to what God says, and surrendered her stubborn independence for partnership and fuller life. Alongside Nicole, Will learned grace upon grace, how to recognize and articulate his feelings, stepped into being the leader he is and lived outside of his comfort zone.
August 12, 2017. Will took Nicole back to the waters where she said yes to Jesus and was baptized. 'I will never forget the day you told me your story, a story of redemption. That day, as you sat there and you told me this story, I could see the pure joy in your eyes, the joy of one who had finally said no to defeat and yes to the only one who can bring victory. Ever since that day, I have had the strong conviction to bring you back to the place that you said yes to Jesus, so I can ask you to walk alongside me in being a dangerous force for His kingdom. So I bring you back to these waters, not for our glory, but for His and His alone. I bring you back to remember the sacrifice He made so both of us can stand here in awe that He has brought us together to one day join together and lay down our lives so His name can be lifted high. To remember your commitment to shout His praise no matter what the cost when you let His spirit wash over you, declaring to the world that you will no longer stand alone in darkness, but you will let Him fill you and bring you into His kingdom as the beautiful daughter He has always longed to one day unite with. To remember His covenant first, a covenant of grace, that no matter where we go, no matter how high the waves may get or how many times the waters of life drag us down He will always be there to pick us up so we can continue to bring glory to His kingdom. I ask you on this day in this special place for you, to join alongside me in being a dangerous force for the kingdom. The Lord has lit a fire in your soul Nicole, one that cannot be put out and He has called us to join together and shout His praise no matter the cost. I love you Nicole Geneva Clanton, and I can't wait to see where and how He is going to use us to further His kingdom.' - Will
"To love and be loved by Will IS to experience that, "Love is patient and love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." [1 Corinthians 13:4-7] God immediately softened my heart when He brought Will into my life. I couldn't imagine spending forever with anyone other than this wonderfully amazing, relentless, courageous, bold brilliant, hilarious, equally weird, patient, gracious, compassionate, humble, intentional and wildly thoughtful, joy inciting, Jesus loving man. Your love for me has exceeded anything I've ever asked, imagined or fathomed that I might deserve, and pointed me to greater Love all at once. I am overwhelmingly grateful and wholeheartedly in love with you husband and the incredible Lord Who brought you into my life. HALLELUJAH!" - Nicole
On May 27, 2018 we promised to be each others' best friends, partners in the Gospel, husband and wife, now and forever more. What a redemptive love story it has been and will be! Glory to GOD!"
Dad: "After 24 years of marriage, love has matured beyond the butterflies and giggly feelings when we see each other. It’s more than a need to be together it truly is a want to be together. Love is partnership, acceptance, emotional support, commitment, calmness, respect, caring, kindness, friendship, considerations of feelings, and so much more."
How can the two of you serve God better together than apart?
Mom: "We complement each other and work well as a team. Sometimes Nate takes the lead and I follow. Other times I am in a leadership position. We encourage each other and build each other up."
Dad: "You (Brianna) planted a seed in our souls to serve those less fortunate. In the recent spiritual gifts test, we both have Apostleship as a primary gift. God will use those gifts as we seek to collaborate in existing ministries and starting new ones (ex. Our small group, and the hopeful disabilities ministry)."
Mom: "I look to him for decisions that need to be made; I trust that he wants the best for me and our family. I try to care for him in a way that reflects my love for him."
Dad: "God has molded her into a tireless servant in all that she does- her job, her relationships and our marriage. She’s a selfless giver that often (maybe too often) puts others above herself. Knowing that, it’s MY job to put her first and love on her the way she loves on others."
Mom: "We dated and broke up when Nate returned home after being stationed in Florida. We stayed in contact, but I was thinking of ending our friendship because Nate was dating someone else. Nate called to tell me his father had cancer. I almost didn’t call him back, but a friend encouraged me to call. Our friendship was strengthened and that led to our reunion and getting back together. God used Nate’s father’s illness to draw us back together. Within a year, we were engaged and a year later, married and expecting our first child together."
Dad: "She serves in countless tangible ways but it’s the intangible emotional support and trust to lead our union that is the truly valued service."
Mom: "I look to him for decisions that need to be made; I trust that he wants the best for me and our family. I try to care for him in a way that reflects my love for him."
Chris: "Romantic love means putting your partner first, forgiving their faults and helping them to become a better person. Love means sharing a life together and working toward shared goals. Love means being two complete people who become better together. Love makes the world brighter and makes life worth living."
Emily: "I respect my partner by talking and listening to what he has to say as well as valuing his feelings and building him up each day. I also compromise so that neither one of us feels better or lesser than the other, we are both equal."
Chris: "I honor my girlfriend by serving her, listening to her, being open with my thoughts and feelings, and showing others that she is the most important person in my life."
Emily "I define love as a feeling of being complete, knowing you aren't alone in this world because there is someone out there that cares."
Together: "Both of us were alone and didn’t know if we would ever meet someone. When we met each other, we knew that we had found our soulmates. We found everything that we had dreamed of in each other and things beyond what we had ever dared to hope for in a boyfriend/girlfriend."