Friday Feature Couple ~ Lindsay & Bruce van Zyl
I met Lindsay through a non-profit I was volunteering for in 2016. Lindsay was brought in to help us think through our brand. Lindsay was thorough, asked great questions and really challenged us to get clear on our messaging. I remember thinking how wicked smart this young gal was.
Fast forward to us launching this Intentional Marriages website I remember asking her if she knew anyone building membership websites. Lindsay was pivotal in our journey when she introduced us to Justin Dean, founder of ThatChurchConference.com. Nothing like having someone you know and trust point you to another trusted friend to help guide and mentor you along the way.
Lindsay is someone I admire and respect and I think you will too after you get to know her and her husband below. We’re incredibly grateful for their contribution to our Friday Feature Couple posts!
Q: How did you meet each other?
A: LINDSAY: We were brought together by our two favorite things: ministry and family.
I first met Bruce in 2005 during a church conference. It was brief and uneventful. Three years later we met again at another church conference through my brother and sister-in-law who were dating at the time. My sister-in-law and Bruce are family friends. My brother takes full credit for matchmaking because he loved Bruce and wanted us to date, but at the time I just rolled my eyes and told him I wasn’t interested in dating my “little” brother’s friend. A year later I moved to GA (where Bruce was living) to finish college. We served on a team together at church and struck up a genuine friendship. But it didn’t take long after getting to know Bruce for me to fall head over heels for him. I loved the way he loved Jesus and the local church. I thought, if he treats Jesus’s bride this well, I can only imagine how well he would take care of his own bride. I also thought he was very handsome and I liked that he played guitar (you know, priorities). Of course, he was such a gentleman that I didn’t think he was interested in me. He never made a move!
BRUCE: I thought she was out of my league so I kept my distance at first. Lindsay quickly became one of my close friends and I didn’t want to ruin it by declaring feelings that might only be one-way.
LINDSAY: But it didn’t take long for our mutual friends to start noticing our budding friendship and make comments on what could be.
BRUCE: When all the matchmaking comments started, I knew I probably couldn’t ignore it. For Lindsay’s sake I thought it was better to have a conversation and get it out in the open so it wasn’t awkward between us. I fully expected her to tell me she wasn’t interested in anything more than a friendship, but I was willing to risk it for the chance at dating Lindsay Hannel.
LINDSAY: And I thought he was asking me to coffee to end the friendship because he found out I had feelings for him.
BRUCE: So basically we were both nervous. But after two hours of conversation we left that coffee date boyfriend and girlfriend. The rest is history.
Q: How did your husband propose?
A: I had no expectations on the proposal, other than I just wanted to be surprised. And Bruce definitely delivered! I was in NC visiting family for Thanksgiving. Bruce was in Hilton Head, SC with his family. The day after Thanksgiving, my parents planned a dinner date with me to spend some time together before I headed back to GA (nothing out of the ordinary.) Except on the way to dinner my parents began to argue about the directions to the restaurant. We got “lost” and turned onto a side street, and there was Bruce. I was so shocked to see him that nothing was registering. My dad told me to get out of the car and then drove away when I got out! Bruce took my hand and walked me down this private dock on the water (it was sunset at this point), there was roses everywhere and he played me a song he has wrote just for me. Then he got down on one knee and asked me to be his wife. It was just perfect! After the proposal, a car was waiting to take us to my favorite restaurant in my hometown and there both our families were waiting for us to celebrate with an engagement party.
Q: How long have you been married?
A: 7 years. We were married on May 21, 2011.
Q: What was one thing that surprised you after you were married?
A: BRUCE: I was surprised by how much I still had to discover about Lindsay after we were married. I thought I knew her pretty well, but I was surprised that there was so much more to discover (and I’m still discovering!) It’s been during some of our hardest seasons that the most precious discoveries were made. When you start building a life together, hardships are inevitable, but I’ve found that it’s in the hardships that I always discover a new depth to my wife, like her unbreakable strength or unyielding character. It’s like finding treasure. She is a reminder to me that we serve a God who “is able to do immeasurably more than all we could ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20). The Lord knew what I needed more than I knew what I needed.
Q: What are you both really excited about?
A: LINDSAY: We are in a mesmerizing season right now as we have stepped away from some long-term leadership positions and entered into what we believe is a God-ordained time of rest and refocus. In the past, rest has been a hard concept for us to grasp because we are both drivers who enjoy being productive and making things happen. Rest used to feel wasteful and self-serving. But we are learning more and more about the lifestyle of rest that is made available to followers of Jesus (Hebrews 4:9-11.)
During this time, God has given us a renewed vision for our home. In the busyness of life, home became a mere pit stop for us in between our countless activities and responsibilities. We have re-established our home as a place of peace and a sanctuary to refresh both us and those who visit. We’re finding that rest is not so much about doing less but about doing everything in faith and placing our trust in our Prince of Peace. We are walking alongside peers right now who are experiencing burn out, chronic stress, and all kinds of mental and emotional turmoil. We have experienced these things ourselves. It’s exciting to discover what we believe is heaven’s antidote to the torment our generation is facing. God isn’t expecting us to just survive this life, He is committed to making sure we thrive and live in His peace, wholeness, and strength.
Q: What’s one thing you do for your husband/wife everyday?
A: LINDSAY: I choose Bruce every day. I know it sounds clinical or maybe even cliche, but I wake up every day and make a conscious decision to choose Bruce. Why? Because I know I’m going to be given a lot of choices throughout my day — words to speak, thoughts to think, attractions, and distractions — and I always want Bruce to be my number one choice. When I was newly married, I was under the impression that loving Bruce would always be an easy, organic thing. Honestly, most days it is a very easy thing! But the busyness of life has a way of causing ebbs and flows in romance, and that can cause anxiety within a couple if love is based on romance or feelings alone. But when I am choosing Bruce every day there is a peace in knowing we can withstand the not-so-romantic days or hard seasons. The choosing has matured me in ways I didn’t even expect. Of course, romance is still very much a part of our marriage, but as our relationship continues to matures so does our love and it is only expanding into even more expressions.
Q: What are your thoughts about counseling? Do you and your spouse go?
A: BRUCE: One of the greatest pieces of wisdom given to us early in our relationship was to not wait until things were bad to seek counsel. Even when we were dating, we invited our parents and a few trusted mentors whose marriages we respected to speak into our lives and relationship. I believe it has made all the difference. I know dynamics can be tricky with parents and in-laws, but thankfully we both have parents who respect our boundaries and only give input when it’s invited. We also have spiritual parents who have mentored us along the way. I would encourage all couples to find those trusted people (whether it’s parents, or pastors, or friends) who can consistently speak wisdom and encouragement into your life and marriage.
Q: What’s one piece of advice you would share with someone before getting married?
A: BRUCE: We’ve found that major life milestones tend to “invite” all kinds of advice from the most random places — whether it’s the waiter at the restaurant who sees your engagement ring or the stranger in the tux shop or the sweet old lady at church. Everyone feels compelled to offer their two cents about marriage, and often it’s more warning than advice given through the lens of their own painful or negative experiences. During our engagement we heard things like, “The first year is the hardest,” and “Living together is going to be a wake up call.” We also got a lot of “advice” that we felt belittled the role of husband and wife — things that implied that husbands need to be trained and wives would “tie you down.” Our pastor, a trusted mentor who led our pre-marital counseling, really set us free by telling us to ignore all the “advice.” He reminded us that as Christians we have the power of Christ in us (Romans 8:10-11), and that power can even be applied to our marriage. Our first year can be amazing (and it was), living together can be an adventure we embrace not a chore we endure (and it is), and our dynamic with each other doesn’t have to follow the status quo.
So, I would tell an engaged couple to ignore all the “advice” that might come your way and seek true wisdom and wise counsel. Be proactive. Identify the couples in your life whose marriages you respect and want to emulate, and ask for their input.
Q: Name a couple who inspires you?
A: LINDSAY: We have been so blessed with amazing parents. Both sets of parents have been married for over 30 years, and we joke that our marriage counseling started before we even knew each other through witnessing our parents build rich marriages. It’s easy to list all the impressive things our parents have done — like build churches, raise families, start community organizations, but what really inspires us is who they are. They are people who trust God no matter what. We watched what unrelenting faith in God does for a marriage, and we’ve decided we want nothing less than that.
Q: Would you say that you love each other more now than earlier in our marriage?
A: LINDSAY: 100% yes! We fell in love as a young couple so we only knew what we knew about ourselves, each other, and the world — our experience was limited. But as we’ve each grown and matured we have also grown only closer as a couple. Our definition of love has matured and expanded over the years. We are learning more about what it means to love another person with unconditional love just as Jesus Christ loves us.
Q: Does it bother you that he’s/she’s growing older? If so, in what ways?
A: LINDSAY: Yes — because it means time is flying by. Before we were married, the marriages around us were ending mostly through divorce. But as we’ve gotten older, we’ve started saying goodbye to our own grandparents, and we’ve buried friends who have died too soon, and so we’re watching marriages come to a close through death. I look at my days much differently now. There just isn’t time for petty arguments and trivial pursuits. I value our days together that much more — not through fear but with thanksgiving. It is amazing how thanksgiving can fill the cracks of discontentment.
Q: How happy are you with our praying as a couple? Is there something to be done to make things better?
A: BRUCE: After 7 years of marriage we finally feel like we are cracking the code on this one. There was a lot of expectations going into our marriage of what our devotional times/prayer life would be together. We heard all these amazing stories of couples doing devotionals every day together, or having early morning prayers times, and we thought, “We can do that!” However, we had a hard time building a specific routine, and we let the discouragement of that seep into inactivity. Lindsay and I connect with God in different ways. Lindsay connects through study and meditation, and I connect with Him through worship and service. We’re learning to share the fruit of our own connection with the Lord with each other. Often this happens naturally during our dinners together. We often are asking each other the question, “What have you been talking about with God lately?” These conversations have been so life-giving for us, and often we end these conversations by praying together.
Also, we have a “family meeting” on our calendars every Sunday night (this is the one night of the week for us that is least busy, shout out to our community group leaders for this idea). During this meeting we go over the next week’s schedule, budget, etc., but we also have a time of sharing testimonies from the previous week and we pray together for the upcoming week. We journal these prayers because we want to keep track of all the answered prayers and testimonies. It’s amazing to see how much can change week to week!
Q: Does your husband/wife sometimes embarrass you? If so, how?
A: BRUCE: Lindsay is the classy one. If either of us is embarrassing the other… it’s probably me embarrassing Lindsay and not the other way around! Early in our relationship I tended to not to care or think about what others thought of me or my decisions and I would argue that Lindsay may have cared too much about what people thought. We have certainly grown together and helped balance each other in this area. I have learned to have grace and respect for others and their point of view and respond in a classier, more-Lindsay-like way.
Q: Do you try to fix him/her? How? Does it work?
A: LINDSAY: Bruce and I are both problem solvers, so we love to fix things. Early in our marriage this caused friction because we would skip straight to the fixing instead of taking the time to gain understanding. During our engagement we received wisdom from one of our mentors that when two become one you are fully accepting your spouse as he/she is today. I believe it was phrased: “If your spouse wasn’t going to change one thing about themselves for the rest of their lives, would you still love and accept them?” Of course, the answer is yes. We are always growing together and maturing, especially if you get married young, but I would much rather grow and mature together with my spouse. We’re learning not to major on the minors, and this is building a deep trust between us because we know that if one of us brings up something that needs to be addressed it’s not done so flippantly or without consideration.
Q: Are you hopeful about the future?
A: LINDSAY: Absolutely! In the past two years, we’ve had two beautiful nieces enter our world and it’s shifted our hearts in focusing on the next generation like never before. Bruce and I find such joy in dreaming about the future and believing the promises for our next generation. We believe in the promises for a future filled with the Lord’s favor and blessing, and know that we were put into this world for such a time as this. The Lord has already blessed us with gift of an amazing spouse and we know He will continue to provide every resource and fill every need. We know He always fully provides for the journey He has called us to. Especially on the tough days we are quick to remind each other, “you were born for this.”
Q: Are you happy with the way you are involved with other believers?
A: BRUCE: Well, our relationship evolved within the walls of church, so we’ve always been surrounded by a community of believers. However, we learned the hard way that it’s easy to serve and attend church without genuinely connecting with others. Just this year we joined a great marriage community group, and it’s been very life-giving for us. If you’ve been around church for a long time, it’s easy to think of attending a community group as just another activity to add to your already full plate. You may think, “I’ve already have friends. I don’t need anymore friends.” But the very first night we attended, our group’s leader said, “We formed this group because we’re not OK with just having a good marriage, we want a great marriage and we’re willing to invest whatever it takes to have it.” It hit me in that moment that attending this group wasn’t just about making friends or staying connected to our church community, it’s about making an intentional investment in ourselves and in others. Basically, it’s not just another thing to do but an essential thing to do. Really it’s a gift to have this interaction with other couples in our stage of life who are dedicated to honoring God and honoring each other by making their marriages great.
Q: Do you think he/she spends too much time or not enough time with my friends?
A: BRUCE: We both very energized by being with each other. There have been seasons in our marriage that we have been so busy that we’ve been like two ships passing in the night, and that became very harmful not just for our marriage but for us as individuals because we were not spending enough time with the one person we got the most life from being around. As Lindsay mentioned we’re in a season of rest, so we’ve been able to spend much more time together and it’s been awesome! It’s probably been the best year of our marriage so far. With that being said, we’ve been extra intentional this season to connect with community so our world stays big and we receive healthy input.
Q: What do you most wish you both could do in the future to make an impact on our world for Christ?
A: BRUCE: Two of our primary life scriptures are found in Isaiah 49 and Isaiah 61. Both highlight heaven’s desire for restoration. As a couple, we feel called to restoration and we’ve embraced this by putting it at the forefront of our daily lives, whether it’s problem solving in business, or interceding for an area of brokenness we’ve encountered, or providing for practical needs. Our vision for our marriage and family is that we partner with heaven in bringing restoration to a broken world.
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