I always had a goal to marry the first man I dated.

And now my long-time dream is coming true.

Because of this goal, I didn't expect to be in a relationship for a long time. (Seriously, not until I was like at least 25.) And because I thought other people should also date with the intention to marry, I'll be honest, I was pretty critical of young relationships and young marriages.

So when Brandon came into my life, it kinda felt like a slap in the face.

I was 17, and I wasn't looking for a relationship. I made it clear that I didn't want to get married until I was like 28. I had a lot of goals that I needed to achieve before getting into a relationship.

But 17-year-old me was also really excited about this guy. He was kind, cute, caring, and had a heart for Jesus. I connected with him automatically, and I realized he was someone that I would be willing to take the risk for. I would be willing to date him because he was marriage material.

We prayed about and discussed our possible relationship a lot before we started dating. I wanted to make sure that this wasn't just my emotions taking over my plans. I didn't want to make an impulsive decision that could lead to hurt later on in life. I wanted to make sure this was God's plan and not my own.

I still remember vividly the first time I brought the subject of Brandon up to my mom. After getting over the fact that I was interested in someone, she responded, "But I thought you were going to marry the first person you dated?" I knew that there was a possibility that it wouldn't work, and that would be disappointing, but I also knew that he would be someone to take a chance on.

I didn't want to give my love away to just anyone. If possible, I only wanted to give it to one person: my future husband.

If you think about it, what is dating for, other than marriage? Every dating relationship ends in a break-up or a wedding. I don't think anyone prefers the break-up route, so why wouldn't you think about your boyfriend or girlfriend as a potential spouse? Dating intentionally allows you to truly think about what you're doing before getting in a relationship. You can define the relationship before even beginning it.

It's okay if you haven't dated with intentions to marry. It's okay if you've gone through break-up upon break-up. But if you want to save yourself a lot of pain, and have something truly special, I encourage you to date with intentions. Sure, it may be difficult. Sometimes that might mean you may not be in a relationship until you're 28 (like I thought I would be).

Yet, God's timing will always be right. I had my plans in place, but God put Brandon into my life when I was 17. Maybe you want to get married now, but God's plans could be different. And His plans are always better than ours.

Now, I'm 19, engaged, and could not be happier. In a little over a year from now, I will get to celebrate my wedding day and be married to my best friend. I know I'm young. I'm now the person I was so critical of just a few years ago. But I also know that this is God's plan, not mine.