The One with the View from the Pit

For the past 10 weeks, I have been hard at work learning the keyboard/synthesizer strings part of the full score to The Sound of Music. (Hence my absence this week–it’s show week, people. LOTS of rehearsals.) I was asked to be an adult member of the high school production’s pit orchestra, and it has been an unforgettable experience. The show opens TONIGHT and I couldn’t be more excited. With that in mind, I thought I’d share my…
Observations from the Pit {Orchestra}
1. It takes all of my self control to keep my eyes on the conductor, NOT THE STAGE. 
2. You miss out on a lot of awesomeness when you’re playing the background music for any given song or dance. 
3. Getting a “front row” seat to the action is pretty awesome though (for those few moments when we can just sit back and watch.) 
4. Listening to the vocals as you accompany them is an amazing experience. 
5. Finally coming to that moment of confidence, when you can say to yourself, “Hey, I’ve got this!” is invigorating. It means you can HAVE FUN playing your part.

6.  Being a part of something so much bigger that you is a really neat experience. Knowing that your music is just a layer of support–but one that is essential–is so cool. 
7. Those moments when it’s ALL YOU (or no music is heard) is a *little* bit intimidating. I’d better go practice again

8. Seeing those hours and hours and hours of practice time pay off is extremely rewarding. I needed a reason to practice. 
9. I don’t even mind having these songs in my head. It’s just good music. The hills are alive…I am sixteen…how do you solve a problem like a Maria…Edelweiss…Do a deer…

10. Getting to know the teens better–and getting to meet their friends–and goof off together is a fantastic opportunity. 
I never would have imagined that just 8 months into our newly-transplanted Western New York lives, I would have the privilege to be an integral part of the community, the schools. I’ve made some great connections, met lots of new friends, expanded my musical abilities, and gained some serious confidence. 
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aJ7E7kJlZMI]

The One with a Question for the Married Folks

Remember reading about Union28 last week? Did you all go shopping yet?! 
Marriage isn’t just about lovey-dovey holidays and candlelit dinners and moonlight walks on the beach. If you’ve been married longer than a month, you’ve probably figured this out. 
Marriage is about 
Paying bills together–making those ends meet.
Ministering in the church together.
Spending time with them doing something they love (even if it doesn’t interest you at all!) 
Taking care of them when they’re sick (even if it involves gross snot or nasty vomit). 
Letting him vent when he comes home from work (and not trying to make him feel better.)
Listening to her heartache (and not trying to fix it unless she asks.) 
Thanking him for dinner out (even it’s McDonald’s.)
Thanking her for the dinner she took the time to make. 
Deciding together who takes out the trash, who does the laundry, who does the yardwork, etc.
Being willing to help when they ask (even if you’re in the middle of something.) 
Sharing your hopes and dreams (without fear of judgment).
…and for all those reason and so many more, we should be making sure our spouses know how much THEY ROCK.   This adorable video poses the question “Why does your spouse rock,” and today I’m asking you to share with me (and more importantly) with your spouse why they rock. 
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NyuUp15ifgo]


And don’t forget!!
From now through the end of April, Union28 is offering you guys 15% off any regular-priced Union28.net apparel. Simply enter the code U28KNM15 at checkout! (Code is valid through April 30th, 2012.)

Shop Union28 now! 

The One with the Blood Drive Trauma

 

Tuesday afternoon I took a walk around the block to the local Red Cross Blood Drive. I have been a fairly regular donor for the past 9 years–ever since that fateful day in 11th grade when the Blood Drive came to my high school. That first experience was memorable–but for all the wrong reasons. Not only did it take at least a half hour to fill the bag, but I was queasy and lightheaded and had half the workers hovering over me to make sure I was doing ok. Heck, I was even breathing into a paper bag. (Not the coolest thing to do as a high school junior, mind you.
Despite my bad experience, I wasn’t going to give up. My mom is a marathon-type donor. She is faithful and has earned who know how many gallon pins as a thank you for her sacrifices over the years. I have gone again an again (probably 2 or 3 times a year since then) and faced my fear, armed with knowledge and experience. I know exactly which vein they should use–old faithful. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I need to be laid back the whole time or things will go south. Preventing the problem I am.

Tuesday was the first time I’ve been brave enough to give blood by myself. Normally I go with my mom or in college, I took a group of friends, or in November I got my husband to come with me for the first time. So I signed myself in, got registered in a new region as a first time donor again (the third time I’ve been a “first time donor”), and got settled on the table. 
My technician was very nice and stood by my side the whole time chatting away. It was wonderful. I was feeling good as she said, “You’re almost done!” I was thrilled–I was not going to complicate things. (I have a history of getting I’m-going-to-faint symptoms with blood drives or even IVs, but I never actually faint.) Then, almost immediately, her expression changed. “Why did it stop?!” she asked. “It’s so close to being finished too and the pressure just dropped. Squeeze the ball again for me.” 
I started squeezing, and instantly the feeling overtook me. “I’m feeling very lightheaded,” I told her. She shouted, “I need a cold compress over here!” My stomach was queasy, my skin was clammy, I was breaking out in a sweat, I was having trouble breathing, my vision was blacking out, and then–the newest and scariest experience–my hearing started to go. 
“I can’t really hear anything,” I announced, as other technicians were flooding to my side, reclining my bed even more. “The hearing’s always the last to go,” one lady said, as she was trying to get me to keep my eyes open and move my legs. “Don’t tell her that,” said another tech guy. (“Oh great,” I was thinking. I still don’t know exactly what she meant by that, but I don’t think I need to find out.) 
This whole experience filled up maybe 2 or 3 minutes time, but it felt like an eternity and I couldn’t wait for it to be over. I wanted to throw up, I wanted the pain and scary symptoms to stop. My body had decided it was done allowing all of that wonderful blood to leave it’s veins, and it put an end to things. Thankfully (SO thankfully), they were able to finish filling the full pint.
And just like that, I was fine. The nice technician who was kindly fanning me with his manila folder was now asking me if I could use something to drink. My color came back, I was smiling again, and I downed that cranberry juice. Pretty soon I was sitting up and walking to the table to eat a small sandwich.
My lightheaded and queasy symptoms lasted long into the evening. I felt weak and sick for the rest of the night–highly unusual for me. But I don’t regret it. The Red Cross employees were wonderful, and I know I’ll give blood again. I just hope I don’t have to go through all that trauma. 
Hopefully my story didn’t scare you away, but are you a blood donor?  

The One with the Love for Piano

Piano has played a part in my life since that first piano lesson in 1995. 
My relationship with this instrument (and the inseparable component of music) has ebbed and flowed over the years. There were months (maybe years, even) when I didn’t want to practice, the music was too hard, and I never played well at my lessons. 
I distinctly remember learning the music to Belle’s “Little Town” song from Beauty and the Beast. I loved that song and practiced it in earnest, day after day. It was challenging. (As a teacher now, I understand how much more difficult it is to learn to play those first few “contemporary” songs, particularly those that have lyrics to go along with them. The rhythms are drastically different from all of those lesson books’ contents.) And after all of my committed work, I would go to my lesson and play so terribly that my teacher was convinced I hadn’t even practiced. I don’t blame her. I really didn’t prove anything with my playing. But after months of working, I finally had it down and I played it at recital. My hard work had paid off! (Although, to be honest, I only remember one recital out of 18 when I played the song perfectly. Darn nerves.)
In the past 8 years, my piano repertoire has broadened, my knowledge of theory has deepened, and my love for music has blossomed. In the back of my mind, I always knew music would be used in my life, I just wasn’t sure how essential it would become.
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For the past 3 years, I’ve been learning to teach piano. I never would have dreamed that I would be good enough or knowledgeable enough to instruct others. But thanks to the encouragement and words of wisdom I’ve received from people like my husband, my Grams (a lifelong church pianist), Kevin’s grandma (a 25 year teaching vet), and many more, here I am teaching. And I LOVE it. It is a joy for me to instruct students–both beginner or advanced–and see them catch that joy for music. To play, to practice, because they LOVE it. 
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And all that to say, my piano playing has now become useful on a weekly basis–and even beyond the walls of the Sunday morning church sanctuary. I was asked by the high school band director to play in the pit orchestra for The Sound of Music. Woah! How cool is that? I’m playing the keyboard synthesizer strings (so I’m playing the violin, viola, and cello parts via piano). I was totally intimidated by the responsibility, but the past few Mondays, as I’ve joined in with the 20+ member orchestra and played my heart out, I couldn’t be happier. And WHAT FUN!? Even my daily hour or two of practicing is enjoyable. (crazy, right?) I can’t wait to see everything come together–stage and pit–next week.
And just last night I was asked to accompany two friends as they sing The Prayer at their college talent show this Saturday. A few years back, I don’t think I could have said yes on such short notice. But here I am, playing it well and eager to have their voices join in. 
I am so thankful for these talents God has given me. And I truly believe that He is pleased with my using them for His glory. May I continue to serve Him in my music.  
What talents has God entrusted to you? Are you using them or hiding them away like the servants in Matthew 25?

The One with the {Running} Nerd

If you didn’t think that running could become a nerdy hobby then you’re about to become enlightened. In my opinion, a nerd is someone who is an expert on a single discipline, not because they’re supposed to but because they love that subject so much. A nerd knows he’s a nerd, and he’s ok with that. 
Got it?  
No? That’s ok. It doesn’t really matter anyways. 
All that to say I’m feeling like a running nerd, and LOVING every minute of it. This morning I donned my new Bondi headband (which I won from Sarah’s blog!), my Nathan Shadow Pak (in Royal Blue), and my desperately-needed-new Brooks Adrenaline Running Shoes. Not to mention my Under Armour running tights and long sleeve Cold Gear top. 
Needless to say, it was a great run! I love this 40 degree weather, and I can’t wait until it’s daylight outside at 6am instead of 7am. My Running Dream Come True
Wanna know what the heck all that running gear jargon is all about? I knew you’d say yes. 
The Bondi Headband is something I’ve had on my wishlist for a year or two. I’m not sure why I couldn’t just splurge for this $8 item, but I didn’t. It took me winning a giveaway to try out the Bondi. I LOVE it. I don’t have to wear a lame sweatband anymore to keep the sweat out of my eyes. Now, I can wear a stylish sweat wicking headband. (Is that a thing? “Stylish” and “sweat” in the same sentence?) 
When I visited Fleet Feet recently (my first time getting fitted for running shoes), I saw these slim little waist pouches (I refuse to think of them as fanny packs) that would carry all sorts of running accouterments. I found Nathan’s Shadow Pak on Amazon for $15 and I’ve used it twice this week. It’s great–it doesn’t bounce when I’m running (that would have been super annoying), it’s got a few light reflectors on it, it comes with an ID card tucked in the side (ya know, should anything happen to me), and it holds my phone and my ipod. Not too shabby. 
And then, of course, there are the new running shoes. This is one area of my life that my frugal sensibility isn’t a good thing. I shouldn’t take chances on my feet (and subsequently my knees, back, etc.). Running is hard work and takes a toll on your body. If I want to keep running (and keep the use of my knees for Pete’s sake), then I should get a pair of high quality shoes that are worth the money. 
I couldn’t go all out financially though. I mean, I’m Melanie, I’m cheap. Let’s be honest. To save a few bucks ($35 to be exact), I purchased the previous version of Brook’s Adrenaline. (ie. rather than version 12, I found version 11.) Works for me. It felt good to have new shoes on my feet. 
I’m thankful for this early Spring weather, for winning a giveaway, for birthday money to purchase Under Armour, for an Amazon gift card to save extra cash, and for my husband’s support in spending money on my running habit. 
Three cheers for taking care of myself. (And it only took 7 years to become a running “nerd.”) 
Are you a runner? What tips or tools do you love? 

The One where Dating {Could} Be Good

practically speaking_square Continuing on from my explanatory discussion on dating, I wanted to address the issue of whether or not dating can be good, specifically in the context of teenage relationships. 


1} For my thoughts on defining the term “dating,” check out Monday’s post


2} Now, depending on your definition, I may or may not have dated in high school. But I did go on dates (I just honestly didn’t consider them dates until recently…they were “just to a dance” after all. :D) The large majority of people I know (my husband included) dated in high school–seriously or casually. Which tells me I should address the issue of I’ve chosen to date during my teenage years. What now? Can I still make God-honoring decisions? 

While the instances of unhealthy teenage relationships far outnumber the healthy, I believe it is possible to date and maintain righteous living. And the funny thing is, it uses the same points I made in my previous post on dating.

a) Can you maintain a guard around your heart? Will your relationship allow you the space you need to protect your intimate, delicate emotions?

This is the tricky part! Most girls love with all their hearts and souls. They pour everything into their relationships. But THAT, I believe, is the problem. If you give all of your love to that boy, will you have any left to give the man you marry? (Because you probably won’t know for quite some time whether he’s the One.)   Practically speaking, you will need to maintain daily prayer and Bible reading to keep your mind on things above, not on earthly things. You will need to fill your life with friends and music and books and activities that help you focus on God’s will–not personal gain–for your life. 
 b) Will true friendship be the foundation of your relationship? I didn’t want to lose friendships by way of a bad dating relationships, but I’ve seen instances where it is possible to avoid that brokenness. 

But before you start dating a guy, ask yourself, “Would I want to be best friends with this boy? Or am I just feeling totally attracted to him and ignoring the qualities I wouldn’t want in a friend?” It’s true that “love is blind”–in the scope of infatuated love, that is. You can ignore all you want, but in the end if you’re not interested in being best friends with that guy, then move on.  


Best friends should want to share all of their hopes and dreams, even failures and shortcomings with each other. They should want to make each other better. They should be willing to disagree–even argue–about the issues that matter all in an effort to see eye-to-eye. 

c) Ask yourself–are you entering this relationship because you can honestly see this person being the type of man you would want to marry?

You don’t need to be ready to get married or be divinely convinced that “He’s the One,” but you should at least be convinced that he is a reasonable candidate for your heart’s keeper. The dating period will tell you if your initial inclinations were accurate or not, but in the beginning it’s important to ask yourself that question. Otherwise, in my opinion, you’re dating just to date–and why waste your time.
I have a lifelong friend who found her husband our junior year of high school. They dated, he proposed, and they were married the summer after we graduated. They’re coming up on their 8th wedding anniversary; they have a beautiful son, steady jobs, and a lovely home. They made it. Proof that it IS possible.

3} Concerning the subject of whether or not the dating advice changes with age–In general (and having talked to a few friends of various ages and experiences), I would say, “no.” Godly dating principles cross age gaps. I (of course!) have many more thoughts on this subject, particularly concerning college dating relationships, but that will be explored another time. :) Way to keep you hanging, eh?

The One with the Dating Definition

I received a lot of great feedback from the High School Dating advice I posted on Monday. Writing this post has left my mind in a whirlwind of thought–so much so that it’s difficult getting myself to focus on one narrow topic and expound on it. My heart, along with my mind, has been encouraged and challenged this week as I’ve been listening to God’s direction. I’m excited to see what might come of my recent realizations and increased passions. 
For now, I invite you to join me as I share practical advice to Real Girls’ Real Problems. I’m praying that God will use my words to change lives for His glory. With that in mind, I am calling these advice-centric posts PRACTICALLY SPEAKING. 
practically speaking_square
On the topic of dating, I wanted to expound on the details and terminology used in my first post
What is my definition of dating? 
What if you do date? Can anything good come of it? 
Does the advice change with age?
1} Depending on who you ask, the term “dating can mean many different things. For some it’s a one time dinner and movie. For another it means you’re interested in a guy and you hang out a bit, go a few dances, but nothing more. For still others it means long-term commitment. 
When I use the D word, I’m referring to this scenario:
Boy likes girl. Girls likes boy. Boy asks girl if she’ll be his girlfriend. Girl says yes. The decision is made to be in an exclusive relationship that includes hanging out at each other’s homes, talking on the phone/texting, going out to dinner with a group of friends (or possibly just the two of you), assuming you will have a date for every dance that occurs while you’re dating, and the highly probable hand-holding, hugging, and goodnight kiss exchange. (More on THAT another time.)
My husband has often disagreed with me when I say, “I didn’t date in high school.” Why? Because we have different definitions of the world. He thinks that dating includes going to a dance with a guy. And if that’s the case, then I’m guilty as charged
Throughout my high school career, I attended around 10 school-sanctioned dances with a boy (a different one most times) who had asked me to be his date. Because the guy knew me well enough to know I wasn’t the dating type, he knew I wasn’t going to become his long-term girlfriend or require any commitment beyond the evening of the dance. One particular guy was going to take me to homecoming junior year before he found out I wasn’t about to become his girlfriend. He called it off. I was hurt at first, but now I’m so thankful even that one date didn’t happen.


Now that you know my definition of the term “dating” and how I’ll be using in the future, I wouldn’t mind hearing what you think of when you hear someone say they’re “dating.” It’s always entertaining to figure out what someone really means by that term, particularly when it’s a 6th grader (*cough cough* My husband was that kid. Yes, I tease him mercilessly about it. He still loves me for whatever reason.) 

Questions 2} and 3} will be addressed later this week! Stay tuned. 

The One with Union28.net {giveaway!}

Giveaway closed. The winner is Julie Rothacher. Congratulations, Julie

If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time you’ve probably heard me mention these things a few times.

1. I think my husband rocks. And I like to talk about it. 
2. I really, really love Union28.net.
My husband and I love sporting our “My husband/wife rocks” tshirts. We each have two of them! Do you remember these posts where I talked about how myhusbandrocks? (Read HERE and HERE.)
Have you heard of Union28? Maybe you’ve seen their site, but never gotten around to making a purchase. Well either way, you’ve got to check out their apparel. Buy something for yourself, for you spouse, or for your friends. It’s totally worth it! Union28’s Mission is to encourage marriages and to honor the sacred covenant between a husband and his wife by communicating a positive image of marriage in a fun and stylish way.
See?
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One of the most common messages we have received since we got married nearly four years ago was, “Oh you guys are still like each other? Isn’t that cute? Don’t worry–that will change. Just you wait till you’ve been married for 20 (or 30 or 40) years.” 

Really?! You want to discourage us right out of the gate?! I mean, come on, people!

Look, I know we’re still young in our married lives, but we can testify to the fact that marriage is hard work. Conflicts abound, opinions differ. He leaves his socks beside the hamper. I can never seem to decide what to order at McDonald’s. We make big life decisions together. We minister together. We’re NOT PERFECT. Just hang around us for ten minutes and you’re likely to hear us banter about one thing or another.

But we love each other. Deeply. Boundlessly. Without reservation. We are committed to our marriage, to make it better, to stick by each other till death parts us. No questions asked

Which is one of the reasons we so proudly sport our Union28 tees. How easy can it be to support your spouse? Just throwing on that special tshirt for a day. It reminds you of how much you really admire and care for and respect your spouse. And it gives the rest of the world a tiny kick the in pants–Hey you! Yeah, you! You’re married? You should be proud of that!

Because I support this company in its righteous endeavors to uphold the sanctity of marriage, I am hooking up with them as an affiliate. I am so honored to have the opportunity to share Union28 with all of you. I hope you’ll take a look around their store and if you make a purchase you can use this special discount code to get 15% off any regular-priced Union28.net apparel. Simply enter the code U28KNM15 at checkout! (Code is valid through April 30th, 2012.)

Shop Union28 now! 
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But WAIT! There’s MORE! 
Union28 has generously offered to give away a free Union28 My Husband Rocks original tshirt (pink or black. fitted or ladies cut) to one of my Adorkable Readers. THAT’S YOU! 
—>So leave a comment on this post telling me what you think about Union28 and what item you would buy with your 15% off discount code and you’re entered to win! 
—>For a bonus entry, tweet this message and leave me a comment letting me know. // I just entered to win a @Union28 My Husband Rocks tshirt from @adorkablemel (enter here http://bit.ly/z3RSq1)
Giveaway ends Wednesday, March 14th.  

The One on Modesty

After sharing my convictions and experience on the subject of high school dating, my 17 year old friend from Michigan also wanted my input on MODESTY. 
Oooh, modesty is another very important topic–for middle school and high school girls, but also for women of any age.  

I Peter 3: 3-4Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight

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First of all, I think it is important that we value our femininity and dress in a way that portrays ourselves as the beautiful women we are. It’s not necessary that we hide the bodies God gave us or be embarrassed by our curves. However, it is important to keep ourselves holyset apart from the world’s standards. In a nutshell, I believe modesty means we should dress to look nice, not to attract attentionCheck your motives every time you get put an outfit together. 

Practically speaking, this means: 
1 We should be wearing jeans that fit well but aren’t too tight or form fitting. Guys’ eyes are so easily distracted by our lovely legs and drawing more attention to them with skin-tight sweat pants or jeans just isn’t considerate
2. It is good to wear tank tops under shirts that are low cut or might show a bit of stomach. As far as spaghetti strap tank tops go, I don’t think they should be worn alone–without a shirt over top. Girls need to be wearing good, supportive bras, and I don’t think that it’s attractive or responsible to have our bra straps showing. (It’s tacky in my opinion.) 
3. Some girls just have larger chests and have a difficult time keeping their cleavage covered. But I would encourage every woman to show as little cleavage as possible. This doesn’t mean high-necked shirts–just being respectful of the men in our lives. Their eyes will go there–especially if we’re showing off. 
4. Skirts and shorts need to be long enough that it’s not awkward to sit down. There should be absolutely no fear of an accidental underwear exposure. Skirts and shorts should also avoid the tight-form-fitting look.
I have to admit, it’s hard to be a confident, attractive woman in a world that emphasizes the feminine frame in all the wrong ways. As John & Staci Eldgredge put in the book Captivating, women are the crown of creation, created to be a physical representation of the beauty and alluring character of our great God. I encourage all women–teenagers, busy moms, single ladies, grandmothers, pastors’ wives, and working women–to embrace their beauty and give God thanks for the way He molded them. Take the time to dress yourselves in a way that is respectful of other’s eyes and honoring to the beauty you’ve been entrusted with. (Yes, this includes not hiding behind your clothes, either.)

And above all, seek the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit. THAT kind of beauty shines through any physical appearance and is the truest form of femininity. 

The One on High School Dating

edited to add: This mini-dissertation uses the lens of high school dating, but please know that I believe these principles can be applied to dating at any age and stage of life.

Recently I was contacted by a 17 year old girl I got to know during my youth min years in Michigan. She is leading a small group of 7th grade girls (so cool!) and wanted some wise, “veteran” advice on the subject of boys and dating. Of course I have my opinions and convictions on this subject, but it was harder than I anticipated to put my thoughts on paper. After writing back to her, I decided to share my mind with all of you. (I’d love to hear your reflections.) 
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I don’t believe there is a specific “right” or “wrong” answer to boys and dating, but what follows are my best words of wisdom on the subject of What to do if you like a boy or a boy likes you

I chose to not date until after high school for a few reasons. 
1. It gave me an “out” for those guys I really didn’t want hurt, but didn’t want to date either. (That was just plain convenient.)  
2. It saved my heart. I knew I would connect to a guy too hard and too fast and a break-up would likely rip me apart. That was unnecessary pain in my mind. And I didn’t want the rest of my young life to be hanging on the emotional stability (or lack thereof) of my current dating relationship. Friends, activities, and homework were WAY more important. 
3. There were 2 or 3 boys I did seriously like and kind of wanted to date while I was in high school, but when I started contemplating dating them I couldn’t bear the thought of losing their friendship should our dating go wrong. I valued their friendship too much to ruin it or even make it awkward.
4.  I believe the point of dating to be finding a suitable husband. I knew I wouldn’t be ready to marry as a teenager or even right after high school, so I didn’t think there was any reason to date. 
Those were my reasons for my decision back then, and I still believe that they were the right ones. In addition to that, I now understand that guys are just not mature enough as teenagers to provide the love and respect a girl needs and deserves
A girl might even be interested in the “right” guy–a good kid, solid faith, kind and fun and considerate–but he’s only a teenager and his emotions and thought processes are just not matured yet. Hold off for a few years–at least till late high school or college–before considering a relationship with him. If he’s the right guy for you, he’ll stick around. (You might even want to have that conversation with him–being honest with him about wanting to date, but needing to wait a few years for the purpose of growing and maturing. And if you can’t have that conversation with him–if he’d be weird about it or make fun of you for it–then he’s really not worth you time.)
And more than anything, if you can’t talk openly and honestly about your faith in Jesus then he’s not worth it (as a boyfriend, that is.) And DO NOT go into a relationship hoping he’ll become a Christian by your example. “Missionary dating” will go wrong, every time.