Josiah Duggar Announces New Courtship With Lauren Swanson

Josiah Duggar is ready to give love a go with a new special lady.

The 21-year-old Counting On cast member is courting 18-year-old Lauren Swanson, the family revealed on social media.

Swanson is the oldest of eight children and has been a family friend of the Duggars for years. Longtime fans of the reality show may remember her appearance in an episode of 19 Kids and Counting.

“We are overjoyed to begin this new phase of our lives together. Through the years our families’ friendship has allowed us to get to know one another as friends. I can definitely say I have found a great friend … even better than I could have hoped for or imagined,” Duggar told PEOPLE following the news of their courtship.

Josiah and Lauren are courting!! •link in the bio•

A post shared by The Duggar Family (@duggarfam) on

“I so appreciate Lauren’s Christlike character and tender heart toward others. She brings sunshine into the room and encourages everyone around her,” he continued. “It’s always stood out to me that in every situation, she looks for the one who appears to be sad or lonely and quickly can brighten their day by sharing words of hope, an encouraging scripture, a prayer or even a simple smile with them.”

Courting is a necessary part of the Duggars’ path to marriage. During this stage of a relationship, the couple will spent time getting to know each other under supervision by a family member, never alone.

As for physical contact, a courting couple is only allowed to give side hugs — no holding hands, touching or kissing allowed. Hand-holding is saved for engagement, and a Duggar’s first kiss happens on their wedding day, according to the family.

Duggar added that the new couple is already “praying together toward our future” as they get to know each other better. They recently returned from a trip to Australia and New Zealand, where they traveled to attend Institute in Basic Life Principles conferences with the Duggar family.

“We are thankful to God and our families for the love and support we’ve received in starting this new chapter of life and look forward to sharing it with others as the future unfolds,” Duggar said.

This is the Duggar son’s second courtship following a four-month relationship with another family friend, Marjorie Jackson, in late 2015.

“Both Josiah and Marjorie have enjoyed getting to know each other and to build their friendship over the past months. We are so grateful that they each are seeking the Lord’s will for their future,” parents Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar said in March 2016. “A few weeks ago Marjorie and Josiah agreed to end their courtship, keeping in step with what they believe the Lord’s will is.”

In other exciting Duggar news, three of Jim Bob and Michelle's kids are expecting their first children in the coming months — Joy-Anna and Austin Forsyth, Kendra and Joseph Duggar, and Jinger and Jeremy Vuolo.